Wise County Messenger

District holds town hall over bond

PARADISE


Student safety and managing growth were the two running themes of Paradise ISD’s bond town hall Wednesday night, as around 20 parents and community members voiced opinions and asked questions about the upcoming bond election.

In August, the Paradise school board called an election for a $58.5 million facility improvement bond, voting 6-1 to place the two-proposal package on the Nov. 8 ballot.

With early voting beginning Oct. 24, Interim Supt. Rod Townsend discussed the proposed projects before answering questions from a mixed audience of supporters and those who appeared against or skeptical of the bond.

The last time voters passed a bond at Paradise ISD was in 2008. In that time, the district has experienced steady growth, especially in the past five years. This year, Paradise ISD’s enrollment is up to 1,300, up from around 1,100 students in 2017.

“We’re getting to capacity or over, so the talk began about what we’re going to do to manage that,” Townsend said.

Proposition A, which is $49.5 million, primarily addresses those capacity and security concerns. It includes: n New junior high school n Safety and security improvements at entry points of all existing campuses and by connecting buildings so students don’t have to leave buildings or cross streets n Facility additions at the old junior high for intermediate school occupancy n New career/technology education facilities at Paradise High School n Renovations to the high school cafeteria

Proposition B, which is $9 million, includes replacing the grass at Panther Stadium with turf, construction of a junior high competition gym, two tennis courts and a new girls’ weight room and girls’ locker room to comply with Title IX.

Over the course of the 1.5-hour town hall, Townsend fielded questions, spanning the impact of capacity issues on learning outcomes, how roads will be affected, why various things weren’t included in the bond package, like additional seating at the football stadium and improvements to the ag building. Another asked if $58.5 million would be enough to complete the projects, given the inflation rate. Another pressed Townsend on whether the district was being fiscally responsible, later asking if a grant, education foundation or building developer would pay for the projects.

Townsend said in his opinion the district is being financially responsible, adding that the 33-member facility planning committee came up with a solution to address pressing concerns like growth and security given the available resources, as well as community priorities, like starting a soccer program with the addition of artificial turf at the football field.

Constructing a new 80,000-square-foot junior high building, estimated to cost $37 million, would address those capacity concerns and allow for the realignment of grade levels between the elementary, intermediate and junior high campuses. The district estimates students would be moved into new buildings by 2025, if the bond passes.

If both propositions pass, it would increase the tax rate to $1.29 per $100 valuation, up from the current rate of $1.17.

The district estimates the monthly impact on the average Paradise home, valued at $276,000, would be $29 a month. Under the same scenario, Proposition A would cost $24.75 a month and Proposition B would cost $4.61 a month.

Townsend said the debt would be financed over the course of 30 years at a 4.5 percent interest rate, which is down from the 35 years at 5 percent he referenced in August.

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