Some Killeen Independent School District residents are wary of their property taxes rising from the first proposed bond in 16 years, and they question some of the expenditures.
Questions started arising last week in the new series of community meetings being held by the district to discuss the proposed $426 million bond, unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees Feb. 13.
Why ask voters now? And why ask for $426 million when the last voter-approved bond was in 2002 for $98 million?
Those were Killeen resident Chet Southworth’s questions Wednesday, at the second of three community meetings last week.
Southworth said it would have made sense to produce a smaller, more concentrated bond this year instead of one this total size.
“Was any consideration given to only doing one bond issue this year, and maybe waiting two years to bring up again so you wouldn’t shock us?” Southworth asked district Superintendent John Craft in the meeting at Killeen High School.
The potential expenditures going to voters on the May 5 ballot are in two propositions. Proposition A, worth $235 million, would make schools more ADA compliant, build one high school and one elementary school. The district would also be able to finish adding vestibules and intercoms for security at schools. Proposition B, worth $191 million, would pay for consolidation of some schools and renovations to Killeen High School.
Craft has begun to present bond fundamentals in public voter education meetings hosted at KISD facilities and other sites around the area.
One of Southworth’s points of discussion was the framework of Proposition A. While the proposition includes ADA-compliant changes, in addition to vestibules, intercoms and more renovations related to safety and security, he questioned why it was decided these changes also depend upon voting for a new high school and elementary school.
Another issue is access to the proposed new high school site. It would be built on district-owned property on Chapparal Road, The county road is two lanes, is often congested and later was called “an experience” to drive on by Craft in the third voter education meeting Thursday at the Career Center.
Brian Cotton, a teacher at Ellison High School and 20-year resident of Killeen who attended Thursday’s evening, lives by Chaparral Road and asked Craft whether there were plans to improve the road’s infrastructure.
Despite his concern about the new high school attracting even more traffic, Cotton fully supports the bond.
“I think that as we grow as a city and as we grow as a school district, it’s almost imperative to think about new facilities,” he said.
But some work included in the new facilities and renovations needs to be prioritized, said Killeen resident Oliver Mintz during the second voter education meeting Wednesday at Killeen High School.
Mintz said the district should be saving every “nickel and dime” instead of investing taxpayer money toward lower priorities. Some parts of the Killeen High School renovations rub him the wrong way.
Included in the $75 million allocated for KHS are locker room and training room renovations to the high school, work that Mintz said should take a back seat behind class work and matters related to “life, health and safety.”
“Unless you’re telling me these repairs are for life, health and safety, why are we doing that?” Mintz asked Craft. “It seems to me there are a lot of other things that we could spend that money on. I grew up in public high schools and sat in some crappy locker rooms — I survived. It doesn’t seem right to me to ask the taxpayers to pay for that.”
In response to Mintz’s statement, Craft said, “OK,” then moved to answer Southworth again, who at one point asked Craft if any trustees were present at the second voter education meeting.
Southworth said he was disappointed none of the board members were present at Wednesday’s meeting, which he attended.
Also, some residents on social media said they hadn’t been informed of the meetings. Although the meetings were reported several times in the Herald and other media, the district had not made phone calls to district parents, sent them emails or sent flyers home with students to deliver to their families, according to chief communication officer Terry Abbott.
Abbott said schools have been working to inform voters “as they talk with parents.” In addition, Craft told Thursday meeting attendees the district has slated 52 campus visits on the bond between now and the May 5 election, and that the district will continue to stay active on social media to update the community.
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