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White Oak ISD OKs bond proposal for new high school, other items

By Richard Yeakley
Oct. 21, 2013 at 11 p.m.

WHITE OAK - White Oak residents may be asked to consider a 34-cent tax rate increase next May as school trustees agreed Monday to move toward building a new high school.

Trustees unanimously accepted a recommendation from a facilities steering committee to propose a bond election to build a new high school, as well as a new fieldhouse and tennis courts, updating the middle school and increasing cafeteria space at the elementary school. Should the school board officially call the election in February, the price tag is not expected to expected to exceed $25 million.

"This is basically what we said was our target amount that we are looking at," Superintendent Mike Gilbert said. "As we do this process, if there is something in there and we have to bump it up a little bit, then that number may go even higher. ... We don't have a final work-up from an architect or from a civil engineer. We are at the very beginning of all of this. This tells us what are parameters are."

Gilbert said prior to the meeting that one of the primary concerns of the high school, built in 1975, is that it was not ideally designed for security. The central office causes visitors to walk through much of the school to check in. Modern schools are traditionally built with offices near the front, primary entrance, and visitors typically must enter the office to check in before receiving access to the rest of the school.

If school board members choose call a bond, it would held in May.

If approved, the interest and sinking tax rate would increase from 7 cents to 41 cents per $100 valuation. That total would be added to the district's current maintenance and operation rate of $1.17 per $100 valuation for a total tax rate of about $1.58 per $100 valuation.

At that rate, a homeowner of a property valued at $100,000 would pay $1,580 in property taxes to the district annual with no exemptions, up about $410 from the payments that would be due on the same property if the bond failed.

The last bond election held for the district was in 1999.

While trustees did not discuss where a new high school may be built, Gilbert said they would still need to decide whether it would be built on the district's current campus on White Oak Road or new property would have to be bought.

"We are considering two options. One option is to create a site development here on campus, but it will be a self contained site ... it is either going to be a site somewhere here on the existing footprint, or we would have to purchase a piece of property and build it somewhere else," Gilbert said.

The recommendations submitted by the facilities steering committee included two options, but stated that the plan which included a new high school was "head-and-shoulders" above the other and "the only true, real choice."

The second proposal, which was not accepted by the trustees, would have focused on remodeling and updating the high school, including building a new band hall, principal's office and entry into the high school, expanding the science lab areas and career and technology education facilities, and tearing down/building a new lecture hall with video capability.

The facilities committee was charged with making a plan for the school district's buildings for the next 10 years with a vision of 20 to 40 years. The committee believed constructing a new building would last White Oak ISD longer than renovating the 38-year-old facility.

"If possible, the current FSC wants to change the Band-aid approach to building improvements that White Oak ISD has been using the past few decades," the committee wrote in its memorandum to the district.

John Martin, senior vice president of Southwest Securities, who presented the trustees with a time frame for a bond issue and options for financing a possible $25 million bond praised the work done by the district.

"The great thing is that y'all have already done a lot of the legwork in terms of the facilities committee and getting that part of it together," Martin said. "This is a pretty intense process, in terms of having bond elections and going through the process. You guys are well on your way. Y'all are doing all the right things in terms of dotting I's crossing T's and getting an early start on this."

In other business:

Board members voted unanimously to change the district's mileage reimbursement rate to match the rate given by the Texas. The district had been reimbursing drivers $.08 less per gallon than the state.

Trustees approved the hiring of a new special education teacher for third through fifth grade.



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