The Killeen Independent School District bond voter education meetings got off to a slow start Tuesday, as no residents showed up at the Harker Heights High School auditorium to discuss the district’s proposed multimillion-dollar school bond issue.
The meeting was canceled about 30 minutes after its scheduled start time.
Rainy weather may have played a part in the lack of attendance at the meeting, which was scheduled exactly one week after the KISD Board of Trustees voted to ask taxpayers for $426 million in school construction and renovations in a May 5 bond issue.
Nearly 20 district officials gathered Tuesday night in the HHHS auditorium, including Superintendent John Craft.
District officials were ready to discuss details of the most expensive bond issue in district history. The meeting would have discussed how the bond works and is financed, along with other background information about district operations.
“I would say it’s surprising. I anticipated some community engagement,” Craft said. “At the same time, I do think we worked really hard to get the message out and we’ve worked hard to educate the community to what is entailed. We will continue to host the meetings both at our campuses as well as throughout the community.”
Wednesday night’s meeting at Killeen High School went a little better.
The second of six meetings planned by the district attracted about 10 Killeen residents, some of whom engaged district officials in a spirited discussion.
Craft said the district will not be able to sustain its facilities without the aid of voters approving two ballot items totaling $426 million in bond issues on the May 5 ballot.
“So much of this is contingent upon growth and aging facilities,” Craft said on the district’s decision to call for a bond election, and potentially more bonds years from now as growth rises and facilities age.
The proposed bond issue is split into two propositions. Proposition A, worth $235 million, would make schools more ADA compliant, building one high school and one elementary school.
Proposition B, worth $191 million, would pay for consolidation of some schools and renovations to Killeen High School.
Killeen residents Michael and Nancy Adams attended the meeting for concern about a rise in their property tax if the bond passes. Nancy Adams said she used to work for the school district several years ago at Reeces Creek Elementary, where she said she saw overcrowding firsthand. But she questioned whether the district properly expands and spends money at the right times.
The extra money the Adams family would be footing a year concerns them.
“We’re still on the fence. I’m concerned about our taxes on our property. It looks to me like we’ll be paying $177 extra,” Michael Adams said. “We recognize the importance of updating infrastructure and building the new schools, so that’s on the one side; on the other side, it raises our taxes quite a bit.”
Michael Adams later inquired what alternatives to the bond were considered, and his skepticism was echoed by fellow resident Oliver Mintz.
Mintz, who has lived in the district for about 20 years, said his questions stemmed from problems he and his KISD-employed wife have noticed around the area in that time. He touched on concerns about money allocation, need for educational improvement and “math not being done quite right.”
“I see a school get built, and not two years later, portable (buildings) growing like dandelions. I see high school football teams riding around in million-dollar coach buses. I see a million-dollar scoreboard. I see hundreds of thousands of dollars of salaries that do not impact kids in the classroom sitting in desks,” Mintz said. “What that does is it makes me question whether we’re going to be having the same conversation a year from now.”
Mintz also raised concern over taxpayer money use, and whether KISD, with residents who make comparatively lower salaries than residents in surrounding districts, should be asking for bond money every few years.
“We’re operating very efficiently with all things considered. We could carry on this argument all night, with all due respect,” Craft said in response, posing that KISD has to consider a variety of things when spending money, such as transportation, utilities and more.
On whether KISD will see similar bond discussion in the future, Craft, referring to KISD’s label as one of 75 “fast growth” school districts in the state, said the future is uncertain.
“The answer to your question, quite simply put, I can’t guarantee that we won’t be having this conversation again,” he said.
A third bond voter education meeting took place Thursday at the KISD Career Center.
The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. March 8 in the cafeteria at Nolan Middle School on East Jasper Drive.
Meeting No. 5 will be at 4:30 p.m. April 5 at Central Texas College on West Central Texas Expressway.
The last meeting will be at 6 p.m. April 9 in the cafeteria at Skipcha Elementary on Prospector Trail in Harker Heights.
firstname.lastname@example.org | 254-501-7553