A 16-member Citizens Master Facilities Planning Committee formed by the Abilene Independent School District Board of Trustees has presented an $87.68 million bond proposal to update and improve AISD schools.
The projects to be paid for by the bond include safety and security upgrades, new elementary schools, consolidation of four early childhood campuses, ADA accessibility renovations, high school auditorium renovations, technology improvements and other high-priority needs.
Based on the average value of homes in Abilene ISD of $92,669, homeowners would pay an average of $4.07 more per month and $48.80 per year in school property tax, according AISD, if voters approve the bond measure.
Dr. Jeff Arrington, associate dean of College of Arts and Sciences, served as chairman of the Citizens Master Facilities Planning Committee. The committee was assembled by the school board to provide an assessment of the facilities and a recommendation on any response that the committee found in the assessment, Arrington said.
“We recommended a bond proposal that the board unanimously approved and, at that point, the present-tense work of my committee is concluded,” Arrington said. “Now there is a separate group of people, the political action committee, who will be in the role of advocating the community for approval of this bond package.”
The statewide bond election day is Nov. 5, with early voting taking place from Oct. 21- Nov. 1.
The last school district bond election, which took place in 2009, did not pass. After looking at past proposals, the committee intentionally chose to focus solely on educational facilities, Arrington said.
“We recommended that this be a very simple proposal. We don’t have any athletics. We don’t have any administration,” said Arrington. “I think this is a very need-driven proposal with a lot of data about the age of the facilities, how they do or don’t support the educational needs of the AISD students.”
Renovations and technology upgrades could be expected to begin in early 2014, if the bond package passes. The project schedule estimates all work to be concluded within four years and all elementary schools to be open by the 2016-17 school year.
“My personal conviction is that AISD spends so much of its budget trying to attract and retain good teachers, that this sort of approach is the best tool we have to make this quantum step forward in the facilities part of their educational experience,” Arrington said.
There have already been three scheduled public information meetings hosted by the school district for citizens to ask questions and address concerns. The fourth meeting will take place at Johnson Elementary School on Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m.
“When AISD faculty have the improved facilities to work with, I think it will result in a better experience for the AISD students and the teacher candidates,” Arrington said. “Our teaching positions will be filled by the kind of people we think will really help us build a successful community when we provide quality education facilities.”