The Board of Trustees of the Buna ISD called a bond election at their special meeting of August 20, 2013. Specifically, the bond call is as follows;
THE ISSUANCE OF $20,000,000 OF BUNA INDEPENDENT
SCHOOL DISTRICT UNLIMITED TAX SCHOOL BUILDING
BONDS AND LEVYING THE TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF TO
PAY FOR AND FINANCE THE CONSTRUCTION, DEMOLITION, RENOVATION OF, ACQUISITION AND EQUIPPING OF SCHOOL BUILDINGS IN THE DISTRICT, TO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING PROJECTS IN SUCH ORDER OF PRIORITY AS DETERMINED BY THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES: (1) CONSTRUCTION AND EQUIPPING OF A NEW HIGH SCHOOL, (2) CONVERSION AND EQUIPPING OF THE EXISTING HIGH SCHOOL INTO A JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, AND (3) DEMOLITION OF THE EXISTING JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, AND WITH ANY SURPLUS FUNDS, IF ANY, TO BE USED FOR CONTINGENCY AND FOR REMOVAL OF AND CONSTRUCTION, RENOVATION, ADDITIONS TO AND EQUIPPING OF ANY OTHER SCHOOL BUILDINGS AND SCHOOL GROUNDS IN THE DISTRICT
The call for the bond issue represents the culmination of a process adopted by the Board of Trustees to review existing facilities with assistance from members of the community. Over the last school year the BISD Board established a Facilities Committee with an open invitation to all who would care to participate. The committee was charged to review the facilities, consider the long range plan as developed in 1997, and make recommendations to the Board as to how to address the district’s facilities’ needs. The Facilities Committee concluded their study and made their recommendation to the Board of Trustees at the regular board meeting of May 2013. As part of their efforts the committee conducted a survey seeking public feedback with respect to multiple options for construction as well as an option to decline support for any construction. The survey results from approximately 475 surveys returned indicate an 89% response in support for construction. The Board of Trustees accepted the committee’s recommendations which ultimately are reflected in the language of the call.
Financing for the bonds is currently holding at approximately 4% and timeline options for 15 to 20 years are available. The current outstanding bonds are due to be paid off in 12 years. This bond issue places the district well in the progression of facilities development as planned in 1997 with the bond issue to construct the elementary school and high school Activity Center. The Activity Center effectively represents approximately 30% of the total cost of the proposed new high school, and while built in 2000 for $4.5 million, would cost over $9 million in today’s market. The estimated cost to complete the new high school runs $15 to $16 million depending upon the number of students to be served. Currently, the proposal is to plan around 500 to 550 students. Over the past two years the high school enrollment has been as high as 465, although it is currently standing around 415.
The conversion of the existing high school to a junior high school is estimated to require $3 to $5 million. This part of the project will be completed upon the basis of priorities and fund availability. The first priority will be the construction of a new kitchen proximal to the existing high school weight room which will be converted to a dining room for grades 6-8. The project will then move forward with remodeling of the restrooms, and updating safety features of the main building. Again, the remodeling list will be addressed in as much as funding will allow.
The request for approval to sell up to $20 million in bonds is predicated upon the fact that the Board of Trustees is committed to delivering a quality project which includes the high school and junior high as stated in the call. The Board further seeks to deliver the project as efficiently as possible while realizing the possibility of incurring rising costs with respect to labor, materials, and interest. Should the bond be approved on November 5th, the timeline for securing firm costs will cover over six months to May of 2014. Therefore, while the major projects can certainly be delivered within the district’s $20 million in bond capacity, the long list of needs will have to be addressed on the basis of priorities, particularly safety and security.