Stephenville voters will head to the polls soon to weigh in on a $60.8 million bond proposal for improvements to schools in the Stephenville Independent School District.
After prompting from readers, we asked members of the Stephenville City Council and candidates running for a seat on the council if they support the bond.
A few initially balked at our question, saying they felt it was “inappropriate” to comment on a school board-related issue.
Our elected officials are charged with understanding this community and making sound decisions that benefit their constituents. And while the bond is a school-related issue, it is also one that affects the city as a whole, particularly students and young families.
We feel strongly that our elected officials, even those who serve on the city council, should have a clear understanding of this bond and not be afraid to share their thoughts with voters looking to make an informed decision.
Here is what they had to say:
Mayor Kenny Weldon: I think it’s great the school board has come up with an initiative that supports the youth in our community and the future economic development of Stephenville.
Mark McClinton, place 1: I’m still investigating, but as a general statement, I’m very hesitant to burden taxpayers with additional taxes and that’s what this is. I’ll be attending two presentations in the next couple of weeks and listening closely to what (Superintendent) Matt (Underwood) has to say.
Carla Trussell, place 2: This is not a matter before the council. And as a senior citizen my taxes are frozen. So, I am not personally affected. However, as a fiscal conservative, I do have some concerns with the amount of the bond. For example, it is difficult for the average person to wrap their mind around a softball field costing over a million dollars. So, I did reach out to someone knowledgeable about costs and was told that was a reasonable cost. However, sometimes communities become resourceful and are able to accomplish the same goals with less money. For example, about three years ago, De Leon needed a new track and a million dollar price tag was out of their comfort zone. So they enlisted community support to make the new track a reality. Community members provided materials, physical labor, and heavy equipment. That track became a reality for about $250,000 instead of a million. I would like to see us look at some alternative means also. As a councilman I will be attending the luncheon for elected officials on April 12th to gain more information on the bond issue, and I look forward to continued discussion on the issue.
Moumin Quazi, challenger place 2: I am pro education and pro Stephenville Independent School District and I want a strong educational system in Stephenville. That makes us a better city. Because of the necessary improvements this bond makes to the school district and because it won’t raise taxes for people who are over 65, I support the bond.
Doug Svien, place 3: The issue to me is how much does it cost and how are they going to pay for it? If they have a plan in place without raising a bunch of taxes, then I’m ok with it. There was a group of citizens who formed a committee to look at the district’s needs and I trust they made wise decisions.
Brady Pendleton, place 4: Without a doubt there is a desperate need for facility improvements and program enhancements within the school district. Having kids who attend and will attend, I want them to have the best educational opportunities available. I appreciate the information being provided to the public and look forward to researching the issues in order to make an informed decision that is best for my kids and the kids in this community while taking into consideration the financial impact it will have on the taxpayers.
Rhett Harrison, place 5: At this juncture, I am against the amount of the bond. I see elements which are warranted, but not the bond in its entirety. Routinely, council members, including myself, search for more efficient ways to operate the city. Last year, the council reduced the city tax rate and trimmed several hundred thousand dollars of nonessential spending from the budget. I believe council wants to continue these trends, and city administration is working with us to accomplish these goals. However, our efforts are offset if other taxing entities, such as the county and school district, do not have similar objectives. Reducing taxpayer obligation is good for citizens and essential to attracting new businesses to the community.
Alan Nix, place 6: It is inappropriate for an elected official to publicly take a position on another public taxing entity. I support public education and SISD and I’m not informed enough on their position to make a decision on whether or not I fully support the bond. I liken this to the Ranger College initiative, and I did not take a public position on that either.
Justin Allison, challenger place 6: I am personally against the amount of the bond. When the amount of the bond is divided by the number of students attending the high school, it is approximately $50,000 per student. I do not believe that Stephenville homeowners can afford to pay for the exceedingly large size of this bond. I am fully supportive of safe and high quality schools, but I believe that this issue should have been addressed in a smaller bond that does not include options that could inadvertently undermine safety.
Sherry Zachery, place 7: I am against the 60 million dollar bond. I would be for money spent on increased security for our schools. As a member of the city council I have worked to lower taxes, improve services, and efficiently spend taxpayer money. As a business owner, I know that lavishly spending lots of money does not translate into success. Heavy debt is an anchor around a community's financial well being.
Jerry Warren, place 8: Did not respond.
Brandon Huckabee, candidate for place 8: Being a graduate of SHS and having recently gone back for career day, I certainly understand the need for expanding and updating our schools. I am a strong proponent of vocational studies in our schools that can prepare our students who choose not to attend college. Our city is in competition with other cities across the United States in the area of economic development. Investing in our schools is a large part of that economic equation. I have been to a couple of presentations about the school bond and will do additional research leading up to the election. I believe we must give all of our children a strong educational foundation in the most conducive learning environment possible because that is something that will benefit this community for generations to come. I respect the method the school board used to come up with this bond package and at the end of the day the voting citizens will decide on May 5 if they agree.
Russ McDanel, candidate for place 8: I support necessary upgrades to school safety, security and code compliance. As a fiscal conservative, the $109 million total payback on the $60.8 million bond deeply concerns me. I feel enlarging current buildings to correct overcrowding and the before mentioned issues can be properly addressed at a much lower cost. Most taxpayers cannot afford to pay the proposed tax increase, so I am against the amount of the bond.