While an October 1997 school bond election was met with widespread voter approval as 87 percent supported the more than $19 million proposition, the outcome of Stephenville ISD's Nov. 2 bond election is yet to be seen.
If the estimated $34 million bond fails to gain voter approval, it will not be due to lack of information. Across the district, administrators and school board members are addressing audiences and delivering facts and figures associated with the upcoming election, including a tax rate impact analysis, a report on current conditions at the four campuses included in the improvement plan and snapshots of the future facades of the three schools that will be renovated if the bond is approved - Chamberlin Elementary, Hook Elementary and Gilbert Intermediate. Central Elementary will be abandoned as an educational institution.
Voters will be well informed on the topic, but the big question - will they back the facilities improvements and a tax increase in the current economy - remains.
When the district first considered calling a May 2010 election, voters across SISD questioned district officials by asking how they could ask for support of what was then an almost $60 million plan during a poor economy.
In response to the concerns, a series of school board meetings re-examined the plans and focused their efforts on the campuses that community members say most needed attention - the district's primary schools.
According to SISD officials, the district's willingness to listen to the public's concerns has added up to positive feedback.
Yes, taxes will be impacted. Information provided by the district's financial advisor says property owners, who do not qualify for exemptions, can expect to see an estimated annual SISD tax increase of 5.3 cents per $100 valuation every year for the next three years.
But the investment will outlast the tax impact. According to board room discussions and comments from Superintendent Dr. Darrell Floyd, improvements, which included increased capacity at each of the campuses, will span decades.
"This bond issue should provide the district with elementary education facilities that will serve the students now and well into the future," Floyd said, estimating that the improvements should take care of the needs at the campuses for the next 30-40 years.
If the bond gains voter approval, what is now Hook Elementary will become Hook Intermediate School and the campus will be home to fifth and sixth grade students.
Proposed improvements at the campus add up to a little less than $6.2 million and address the needs outlined in a 2009 facility assessment study and also takes into consideration a number of teacher and community needs.
Additions and renovations to the campus will include the addition of a new fine arts and activity center, which will tie all freestanding buildings at the campus together under one roof; six new science classrooms; covered waiting areas at bus and parent driveways; renovation of the administration office and a foyer to increase security; and additional staff and visitor parking.
Other improvements slated for the campus include the construction of an auditorium lobby with restrooms; a computer lab addition; an expanded cafeteria with a snack bar addition; renovation of the 1960 building; and renovation of the existing 1951 gym, to include HVAC, paint, windows and brick restoration.
The plans also entail increased security and lighting around the perimeter of the campus and increased capacity to accommodate future growth.
For area residents not currently registered to vote, the clock is ticking. Monday is the registration deadline. For more information on registering to vote, or to determine if you are registered at your current address, visit the state's registration website at www.votexas.org.
Early voting will be held at the Erath County Courthouse in Stephenville on weekdays Monday, Oct. 18, - Friday, Oct. 29, from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Early voting will be held in Dubin at the Erath County Annex on weekdays, Monday, Oct. 18, - Friday, Oct. 22, from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Election Day polls will be open on Tuesday, Nov. 2, from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Regardless of the precinct in which you reside, you may vote at any of the county's designated polling places on Election Day.
In Stephenville, polls will be located at the Erath County Courthouse, Centurylink office, Citibank, TexasBank and United Cooperative Services. Across the county, polls will be located at the Dublin County Annex, Lingleville School, Morgan Mill Community Center, Selden Community Center, Bluff Dale Fire Department and Huckabay School.
Editor's note: Renovations and additions proposed for Chamberlin Elementary and Gilbert Intermediate were detailed in the Sunday, Sept. 19, and Sunday, Sept. 26, editions of the Empire-Tribune, which are still available at the E-T office, located at 590 E. South Loop in Stephenville. The articles may also be viewed in our online archives at www.empiretribune.com.