Cleburne ISD residents may have the opportunity to vote on a $10 million bond sometime in the next 18 months.
The bond, if approved, would pay for various capital improvements, outlined by district officials. Tax payers would not see a tax increase as the bond would be borrowed on current tax rates. Despite no tax increase, the bond does require voter approval.
Many of the capital improvements are for safety and security upgrades. Some of the items on the list include running tracks repairs at Smith and Wheat middle schools, repairing an aging and damaged Wheat gym floor, the purchase of new choir risers and shells to replace aging equipment currently in use, creation of a safe bus loading zone at Cleburne High School, roof repairs and replacements to safeguard against leaks, overdue painting and software needs.
If CISD trustees decide to move forward with asking for the bond, it would be the first since a controversial election in May 2005.
Voters first struck down a $36 million bond in May 2005, but the district, led then by Superintendent Robert Damron, quickly moved forward with a second attempt. Voters approved the bond by a margin of 35 votes weeks later, in July 2005. The $36 million paid for a new Irving Elementary School, Santa Fe Elementary School and Marti Elementary School.
A story in the July 17, 2005, edition of the Times-Review said that voters who opposed the May 2005 election were concerned about a lack of specificity and worried about what would happen to Irving. Irving has since been converted into charter school Kauffman Leadership Academy, with a possible opening date this fall.
District officials said they will make sure residents know exactly how the bond money will benefit the district this time around.
CISD’s Chief Financial Officer David Johnson said the district has been proactive in “paying off debt early,” so there is room for CISD to take on the additional $10 million debt.
“The increase in tax base attributable to minerals provided tax revenue for early retirement of bonded debt,” he said.
The bond would essentially pay the district back for any capital improvements it takes on now — such as the nearly $500,000 surveillance system project trustees approved last month.
“We passed a resolution that said if we had a bond issue in the next 18 months, we could pay ourselves back for various projects [we begin now] with the bond money,” said Superintendent Tim Miller.
As it stands, taxpayers pay $1.23 per $100 of property valuation each year. Of that, $1.04 goes into the maintenance and operations budget, and $0.1966 goes into the interest and sinking budget. Over time, the district would use tax revenues in the interest and sinking budget to pay off the bond debt. Johnson said the bond would take approximately five years to pay back.
“Cleburne has put itself in a good financial position and has opted to pay off debt when we can,” he said.
Miller said making improvements to the schools will benefit the community now and in the future.
“Any time you make an investment in schools, especially investments that will improve the learning environment for children, you have a better chance of having successful schools,” Miller said. “It will attract businesses and property values are generally maintained.”
Alvarado ISD officials are also contemplating a future bond election to replace the district’s aged and crowded junior high school. The school was recently found to contain various levels of asbestos in building material, which, when disturbed or damaged, is harmful to people if inhaled.
Voters rejected a $44 million bond in 2010 when AISD officials wanted to build a new junior high school, add an auditorium to the high school and renovate the Charles Head Stadium parking lot.
AISD Superintendent Chester Juroska said he hopes voters next time around — possibly as soon as May — will understand the urgency for a new school.