By Olga Pena
Killeen Daily Herald
For Lampasas County residents, casting their ballots in the school board races is only one of the important votes they will make Saturday.
The Lampasas Independent School District is proposing a $48.85 million bond for funds to build a new 1,600-student high school and a 650-student elementary school in Kempner, and to make renovations and additions to existing LISD school buildings.
"There is a very dire need for facilities, both at the elementary and secondary level," said Denny Crow, with the Kids First Campaign Committee. "Our high school was built back in the early '50s; we simply have outgrown it over the years."
Crow, a retired LISD superintendent, said the Kids First Campaign is a political action committee dedicated to supporting the bond.
"The school district can't really get out and advertise to support it; they can only inform. We can actively put out information to vote for the proposal," he said.
This bond issue follows a failed bond proposal for $43 million in November, which did not include a Kempner school.
On Feb. 20, the school board voted to tack on an extra $5.8 million to the bond in order to appease those who opposed November's proposal.
After conducting a phone survey, the school district concluded the main reason the last bond didn't pass was because it did not include the Kempner elementary school.
"There was a $43 million bond in November, and we defeated it because it didn't include a school in the Kempner area in east Lampasas County," Judge Walter Prugh, chairman of the Kempner School Coalition, said in an earlier interview.
Crow said he was disappointed that only about 200 residents voted during Kempner's early voting day on May 5.
Early voting ended Tuesday, but Crow and district officials are hopeful that many residents will cast their votes on the issue on election day.
"We still have Saturday and maybe some people couldn't vote at early voting," Crow said. "Hopefully, they will turn out Saturday."
LISD Superintendent Dr. Brant Myers said the number of early voters since April 30 is comparable to the number in November. "It's going to be a good turnout," Myers said.
Crow said if the bond proposal doesn't pass, the district will be faced with "the same old story," which includes portable buildings and patchwork construction on facilities that are largely landlocked.
He said the safety and security of students are major concerns, especially in the secondary and middle school campuses that are landlocked.
"There is no economical – in my opinion – way to build on those present locations," Crow said.
The proposed new high school would be built on 88 acres of donated land on U.S. Highway 281 South. The new elementary school for pre-kindergarten to fifth grade would be built on 30 acres of previously purchased land in the eastern part of the district.
The existing high school campus would be remodeled to provide an improved middle school campus for LISD. Lampasas High School was built for a capacity of about 700 students and has a current enrollment of 1,078.
Lampasas Middle School was built for about 439 students, and its current enrollment is 510. Kline Whitis Elementary School was built for about 665 students and has a current enrollment of 779.
Myers said if the bond does not pass, the district would have to look for the areas of greatest need and find other ways to deal with overcrowding.
"Obviously, we would have to reorganize our plans," Myers said.
The 2006-07 tax rate for Lampasas ISD is $1.37 per $100 assessed valuation. The proposed bond issue would raise the tax rate to $1.50 in 2007-08. If the bond passes, the estimated annual tax on a home valued at $75,000 would be $1,125, an increase of $97.50. Residents who are over 65 would not see an increase in their taxes due to the bond issue.
The proposal also differs from the November bond issue by being expanded from a 25-year to a 30-year note.
More information can be obtained by logging onto www.lampasas.k12.tx.us.
Contact Olga Peña at email@example.com or call 501-7555