Chapel Hill ISD: Voters reject bonds, tax levy

Published on Saturday, 10 May 2014 22:28 - Written by Betty Waters and Faith Harper Staff Writers

Chapel Hill ISD voters rejected the school board’s proposition to issue $21 million in bonds for school facilities and the levying of tax to pay off the bonds, unofficial election returns Saturday showed.

The proposal was defeated with 523 votes opposed, or 61. 9 percent of the total cast, and 322 votes, or 38.1 percent, in favor, according to the unofficial returns.

Chapel Hill ISD voters also elected Fred Elder Jr., 50, as Place 4 school board member, according to the unofficial election tally.

Elder received 442 votes, or 61.7 percent of the total votes cast, while his opponent, Tammy Humes, 51, received 274 votes, or 38.3 percent in the unofficial count

Superintendent Donni Cook said of the bond failure, “I’m disappointed by the results. My disappointment stems from knowing the great needs we have in our district, but it won’t stop us from immediately picking up and starting to focus on how we need to regroup. We still have needs we have to address in our budget. We will begin prioritizing and working to try to figure out solutions to the issues we have.”

School board president Jeff Akin said, “I reiterate what Dr. Cook said that we are disappointed. There are decisions that have to be made with this bond not passing. There are going to be some difficult decisions for the district because we have overcrowding issues at some of the campuses and we are going to have to figure out a way to alleviate that. Without the bond passing, we will have to be creative in the way we approach that.”

Ms. Humes, a vocal opponent of the bond proposition, said that even though she did not get elected to the school board, she still feels she won because she has been fighting the bond proposals for a year.

“I think it (the bond failure) is great. I think it’s wonderful. It couldn’t make me more happy,” Ms. Humes said.

Saturday’s bond failure followed defeat of a $31.2 million bond package last November.

After the November proposal failed at the polls, district officials sent out 1,600 surveys, re-evaluated projects and came up with the smaller bond proposition put before voters on Saturday. The school board and administration reduced the 2013 bond proposition by $10.2 million in coming up with the new proposition voted on Saturday.

The new proposition that was turned down Saturday would have funded additions and renovations at the district’s middle and high schools, football stadium, baseball/softball complex and Wise, Kissam and Jackson elementary schools. It would also have funded construction of a district operations facility.

The bond proposition would have increased the district’s tax for retirement of debt by 9.5 cents per $100 property valuation. The average taxpayer with a home valued at $135,112 would have paid $114.11 more per year in taxes.

The new bond proposal included renovating and expanding Chapel Hill Middle School, which district officials said experienced a 19 percent growth during five years.

Plans included adding 42,500-square-feet of space and renovating another 25,000 feet to add between 12 and 15 additional classrooms.

A stage would have been added to the cafeteria for the theater department and the entryway into the campus would have been revamped for more security.

At the high school, almost 5,700 feet of space would have been added and another almost 10,300 feet renovated to expand its career and technology courses.

The latest bond package also included renovating “the old Pre-K building” at Jackson Elementary, which is separated from the main building. Renovations would have kept people from walking between the buildings without coming through the main entrance, according to district officials.

The district’s baseball stadium would have been upgraded and bleachers replaced at the football stadium, which would have been made to meet accessibility standards for the handicapped.