Wednesday night went a little better for Killeen Independent School District.
The second of six meetings planned by the district to promote the $426 million in proposed bonds, funded by taxpayer money if it is approved, attracted about 10 Killeen residents.
Nobody attended the meeting the previous night at Harker Heights High School, but the 10 who attended Wednesday's meeting ignited heated discussion inside the cafeteria at Killeen High School.
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 bond issue to appear on the May 5 ballot is split into two propositions. Proposition A, worth $235 million, would make schools more ADA compliant, building 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 Schools.
Killeen residents Michael and Nancy Adams attended the meeting for concern about a rise in their property tax if the bond passes. Nancy said she used to work for the school district several years ago at Reeces Creek, 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 dollars extra,” Michael 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 would later inquire what alternatives to the bond were considered, and his skepticism was echoed by fellow residents Chet Southworth and Oliver Mintz.
Southworth referred to KISD’s consolidated report, which states the district has experienced overpopulation for the past 10 years, and asked Craft why a new, $171,000,000 high school included in Proposition A to be built on Chaparral Road is just now being put on the table.
Southworth noted that Chaparral Road, a two-lane road, is often congested, and was concerned over what impact school traffic would have on the already restricted infrastructure. Craft said the city of Killeen will have to address infrastructural issues as they come.
“Why is it now suddenly a big thing when we should have dealt with this 10 years ago?” he asked.
Mintz, a resident 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 on 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.”
To ask KISD residents for nearly half a billion dollars requires the district to be a good fiduciary of taxpayer money, he said, and saving every nickel and dime possible rather than spending them on what he believes are secondary expenditures.
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.
Meeting No. 3 will be 6 p.m. Thursday in the lecture hall at the Career Center on Stagecoach Road.
The fourth meeting will be 6 p.m. March 8 in the cafeteria at Nolan Middle School on East Jasper Drive.
Meeting No. 5 will be held 4:30 p.m. April 5 at Central Texas College on West Central Texas Expressway.
The last meeting will be held 6 p.m. April 9 in the cafeteria at Skipcha Elementary on Prospector Trail in Harker Heights.
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