Voters approved $426 million in taxpayers money to build and renovate new schools in the Killeen Independent School District.
The unofficial vote totals Saturday was 3,705 yes and 2,637 no for Proposition A and 3,649 yes and 2,672 no for Proposition B.
Proposition A of the bond, for $235 million, will pay for construction of a new high school and elementary school and renovations to existing schools for ADA compliance and security upgrades.
Proposition B, for $191 million, will pay for consolidation of some schools, and renovation of Killeen High School and other schools.
Proposition B appeared under the header, “addressing existing district facilities through renovations and new school replacements.” While KISD says this money will not be used for projects previously not spoken of, nothing in the ballot language commits the district to what KISD has proposed.
Superintendent John Craft said Saturday night he couldn’t be more elated.
“We just impacted thousands and thousands of students this evening,” Craft said. “This is really going to be a tremendous impact to our students.”
KISD will begin to map out the projects with the approval of the bond. The safety and security upgrades included in the bond program will begin over the summer, Craft said. The design of the sixth high school and work on the consolidation of some schools will begin “immediately.”
The Killeen Independent School District will see familiar faces on its board of trustees over the next year.
Incumbent Minerva Trujillo defeated challenger Lan Carter for the Place 6 spot on the board. Board member JoAnn Purser was unopposed in her bid for another term on Place 7.
The unofficial vote, with all precincts in, was 3,926 for Trujillo and 2,290 for Carter.
Trujillo was originally elected to fill the seat vacated by her late husband, Arthur Trujillo.
Previously, she spent 35 years working for KISD as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in a number of schools.
Trujillo, who has never served as a school board trustee after voter approval of a bond program, said she looks forward to putting children first.
When asked how she as a board trustee would ensure funds to be levied by the bond program are properly spent, she expressed faith in her fellow trustees.
“We may disagree on the little things, but not when it comes to the children,” Trujillo said. “Those of us that may not have felt as strongly for the bond, they’ll be in there fighting for the kids. That’s what it’s all about.”
A resident owner with a home valued at $143,000 will see an increase of $171 per year in KISD taxes with the bonds, according to the KISD website.
Moving forward on bond
Craft said information on hiring architectural services will be presented to the school board by the end of May.
Craft and other officials held six community meetings, toured all KISD schools and visited community groups to discuss the bonds.
Craft has said in past meetings that with the passing of the bond, 74 of the 232 portable buildings currently used by the district will be decommissioned.
Response to the approval of the $426 million bond program was mixed.
Bill Kliewer, who served on a bond steering committee and helped prioritize what would be proposed in the initiatives, called the approval of the bond a critical step to the future of KISD and the Killeen-Fort Hood area altogether.
“This is transformative for the future. It’s vital that this passed,” Kliewer said. “This is going to be a great economic driver for a long time, thanks to passing this bond issue.”
Michael Cotten, an adjunct professor of history at Central Texas College, was disappointed by what he calls a low voter turnout in an election that impacts the household budgets of so many.
“The vast majority have remained silent,” he said.
Cotten said from the beginning, he asked the voters to consider two points:
“Do you believe that KISD has been good stewards of the monies that have already been allocated through the regular budgets, and do you believe that these bonds are as prudent as KISD could make them?” Cotten asked.
“By the results, it seems the majority of voters said yes. Let’s hope the district measures up to their expectations.”
In addition to the new facilities that will be built thanks to the bond program, the district still owns three schools that are now closed.
Duncan Elementary, built in 1981, is on Fort Hood. That facility was closed at the end of the 2016-2017 school year “due to declining enrollment which, in turn, causes inefficiencies in many areas,” according to Terry Abbott, KISD chief communications officer, citing minutes of a KISD board of trustees meeting.
The old Fowler Elementary School was closed at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
The Feb. 11, 2014, KISD board minutes say Fowler was “the district’s most expensive campus on a general revenue, per student, basis. By closing that campus and redistributing the students to Clifton Park, East Ward and West Ward, the receiving campuses would become more efficient.”
The Fowler building was later leased for $1 per year to Texas A&M University-Central Texas which, in turn, leased the building to Oak Creek Academy.
The Fairway Middle School building most recently provided housing for evacuees of Hurricane Harvey.
The school closed at the end of the 2008-2009 school year, due to declining enrollment, as noted in the KISD board minutes from Jan. 13, 2009.
The KISD board voted to place the Fairway property up for sale at its Sept. 12, 2017, meeting, but bids submitted in early November were later rejected by the board.
Fairway will be used as a “swing school” during the consolidation process for East Ward and West Ward elementary schools, according to Craft.