Although no elected offices are up for grabs on the Nov. 6 election ballot, voters will decide three local school bond elections, a local proposition, and have input on 16 proposed amendments to the Texas constitution.
School board races scheduled this year for the Calallen and Tuloso-Midway school districts have been rescheduled to November 2008 because of a recent state law.
The ballots are topped with the 16 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution, including an amendment on cancer research and one requiring legislators to take recorded votes on final passage of every bill.
Those propositions are followed by a local proposition pertaining to the Fire and Police Relations Act. The local proposition asks voters to approve "Adoption of the state law applicable to police officers that establishes collective bargaining if a majority of the affected employees favor representation by an employees association, preserves the prohibition against strikes and lockouts, and provides penalties for strikes and lockouts."
The slew of propositions are followed by a bond election for the Bishop Consolidated Independent School District and two bonds for voters of Calallen's school district.
The Bishop school board voted in August to call for a $24 million bond after a facility committee studied the district's needs and unanimously recommended a bond election to address current conditions.
The ballot asks Bishop school district voters to approve "The issuance of $24 million of bonds to construct, acquire and equip school buildings and purchase necessary sites therefore, and levying the tax in payment thereof."
Bishop CISD superintendent Christina Gutierrez said, if approved, the $24 million bond would be utilized to build a new, 105,000-square-foot high school with two gymnasiums and a band hall.
She said once a new high school is built, the current high school would become the district's junior high school and the current junior high school would be demolished.
The current Bishop High School was built in 1954, with the most recent renovations occurring in 1995 after a $9.4 million bond passed in 1994. The 1995 bond is projected to be paid off in eight years and the high school currently has about 350 students.
The current Luehrs Junior High School was built in 1945 and the current high school gymnasium was built in 1949, with the most recent renovations at both occurring in 1995.
Gutierrez said the bond would also be utilized to renovate the football stadium, with new home side bleachers and an eight-lane track. The stadium cannot host track meets currently because there are not enough lanes, she said. Funds would also be used to demolish the existing tennis courts and replace them with six new courts, and for renovations and additions to the agricultural barn, Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said funds would also be used to add security controls at each campus, including cameras and door sensors on exterior doors, and to build a covered activity area at Bishop Primary School, which was built in 1948 and most recently renovated in 1995.
"I think the bond is definitely important for the school district," Gutierrez said. "Our current high school does not have the infrastructure in place to meet the educational needs of the high school students. It does have the infrastructure needed for the junior high level, but it does not have the infrastructure needed for high school students."
The Bishop school board said if the $24 million of bonds are approved, only $10 million would be sold this year and the remaining $14 million would be sold next year.
Therefore, the bonds are projected to increase the school district's debt service tax rate about 13 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in 2008-09, and 20 cents more in 2009-10.
With the issuance of the bonds, the district's total tax rate is projected to be $1.52 per $100 of assessed valuation in 2009-10. Therefore, the owner of a $50,000 home would pay $760 in local school property taxes for the 2009-10 school year, if the bond is approved.
Homeowners over 65 would not see a tax increase since their school taxes are frozen, unless significant improvements are made to the property.
The Calallen Independent School District bond election is divided into two parts.
Proposition 1 asks Calallen ISD voters to approve "The issuance of $43,665,000 of bonds for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, equipping and renovating school facilities in the district, and levying the tax in payment thereof."
Proposition 2 asks Calallen ISD voters to approve "The issuance of $450,000 of bonds to refund the district's existing tax and revenue notes, series 2002, and levying the tax in payment thereof."
The Calallen school board voted unanimously at a special meeting Aug. 27 to have both propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Superintendent Arturo Almendarez said the $43,665,000 million in Proposition 1 would fund district-wide improvements in academic and athletic areas, including building a new Magee Intermediate School and renovating Wildcat Stadium.
Specifically, the bond would provide $13.9 million to build a new Magee Intermediate School, $7.5 million for a new sixth-grade wing and science/computer center at Calallen Middle School, $3.5 million for district-wide technology improvements and $3.4 million for parking lots and road upgrades.
It would also provide $2.9 million for a district activity/aquatic center, $2.8 million for remodeling and an addition to Wood River Elementary School, $2.6 million for an addition at East Elementary School, $2.025 million to demolish most of the existing Magee Intermediate School and convert the remainder of Magee into a support facility and new central kitchen, $1.5 million for a new agriculture facility at the high school, and $850,000 for technology improvements at the high school.
The proposition would also provide $550,000 to install synthetic grass at Wildcat Stadium, $500,000 to expand the visitor's side of the stadium, $500,000 for band hall improvements, $400,000 for baseball and softball field improvements, $400,000 for old gym improvements at the middle school, $120,000 to resurface the middle school track and $120,000 to upgrade the bus barn.
The second proposition would be utilized to refinance $450,000 of existing debt incurred in 2002 that is being currently paid back at the rate of $93,000 a year.
School board president Jim Callis said the larger visitor's area would attract more football playoff games, track and field events, soccer matches and band contests, bolstering area merchants and the Calallen Booster Club.
It would also provide enough seating so that people would not have to stand and watch football games from outside the fences, Callis said.
Almendarez said installing synthetic grass would pay for itself over time through reduced maintenance costs.
School officials said synthetic turf has been dramatically improved in the last 20 years to reduce the risk and injuries and they were not concerned the new surface would pose risks to student-athletes.
Board member Yolanda Villarreal said the turf is guaranteed for 10 years.
If approved by voters Nov. 6, Almendarez said the school district would begin receiving the funding in February and it would take about three years to complete the projects, once they have been prioritized.
Almendarez said the proposed bond was a result of strategic planning that began in August 2005 and has included numerous public meetings.
The last major bond for Calallen schools was called in the early 1980s and two smaller bonds were approved by voters in the 1990s, he said. No new major facilities have been built in 25 years.
If the Calallen bond is approved by voters, the district's tax rate would be $1.10 in 2008-09 and increase to $1.2992 in 2009-10, Almendarez said.
Exceptions to the tax rate increase would be made for seniors 65 and older and disabled homeowners.