With the first Ector County Independent School District Bond Advisory Committee meeting set for April 9, Superintendent Tom Crowe reviewed the need for a tax ratification election and bond election at a special workshop meeting Tuesday.
Crowe said a little more than 100 invitations had been sent out for the gathering, which is set to start at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa, 300 E. 29th St. The meeting will start at 6 p.m.
Crowe said a TRE and bond would be separate this time. They were together in the November 2017 election. He added that a TRE is needed first.
In November 2017, a $291,172,291 bond and a tax ratification election failed and some of the current needs were included in that bond.
On the bond issue, 61.81 percent of people voted against the bond and 38.19 percent voted for it, or 4,442 against and 2,744 in support.
On the tax ratification election, 60.04 percent, or 4,312 people voted against it, and 39.96 percent, or 2,870, were for it.
The district’s tax rate of $1.15 per $100 valuation is made up of maintenance and operations and interest and sinking, or what goes to pay the debt.
The TRE Crowe discussed would add 8 cents to the district’s $1.04 maintenance and operation rate, which would make it $1.23 per $100 valuation. As proposed, an election would be in September.
A bond election would be considered for May 2019, which would give the community more time to consider and learn about district needs.
The tax ratification election would generate about $11 million, Crowe said. If it was conducted in September, the TRE election would have to be called in July.
TranCend4, a company specializing in bond elections was hired to help guide the community through the process. The cost is $26,000, plus expenses including flights, car/Uber, hotel and meals.
Crowe listed many needs the district is facing such as roofs damaged in hail storms in 2016 and 2017; employee raises; new buses; fiber costs; restoring campus allotments; increased costs at Falcon Early College High School; the first year of the Bonham Middle School turnaround plan; controlled access to campuses; and more portable classrooms, among other items.
He said some needs could come from the TRE, others could be paid for with a bond, or a combination of both and others would have to come out of the budget.
Board President Carol Gregg said the district has to do a better job of selling the tax increase to its employees.
Board Vice President Doyle Woodall said he thinks the district should always stay upbeat and positive, but the public needs to be aware of what’s going to be cut without a TRE.
Trustee Delma Abalos said Crowe admitted some of the mistakes made in the 2017 bond election. She said the district needs to talk to the employees to find out why they didn’t support the bond and TRE previously and suggested conducting a survey that could be answered anonymously.
“I find it hard to believe they didn’t want a raise. There must be some other reason they didn’t vote for it,” Gregg said.
Trustee Steve Brown said the district needs to focus on the community and find out why they have such a complacent attitude toward education in Ector County. He said the same was true with board elections and the city council.
Crowe said he would begin talking to the “powers that be” in the community, try to get their support and come back to talk to the board.
The board also discussed rezoning elementary and middle schools. Many campuses are overcrowded district-wide, Crowe said.
“In most cases, we’ve got no place to find relief other than portables,” he said.
He went over scenarios to relieve Jordan and Buice, for example, but said he has to figure out how many students would have to be moved to different schools.
Abalos stressed having meetings with the community to go over proposed changes before they’re made.
Plans are to add sixth grade to Cameron Dual Language Magnet and discussion has started on adding sixth grade at Austin Montessori Magnet.
Crowe said he would like to pair Zavala and Travis and Noel and Pease elementary schools.
For the first year, Zavala would be prekindergarten through first grade the first year and Travis would be second through fifth grade. The second year, Zavala would be prekindergarten through second and Travis would have third through fifth grade, Crowe said.
ECISD has eight schools on improvement required status under state accountability standards. Ector Middle School and Noel and Pease elementary are in their fifth year of IR. If the campuses don’t come off the list, they will face closure or the Texas Education Commissioner will appoint a board of managers over the whole district.
Zavala Principal Linda Voss said the conversation about pairing her campus and Travis has been ongoing with teachers.
Travis Principal Tanya Galindo said if the move went through, she would like to have the same kind of support given to the other IR schools to ensure the pairing succeeds.
The principals at Noel and Pease have been talking about the arrangement for about a year, Crowe said.
Abalos said she wants to see a budget of what it will cost to pair the schools.
Crowe said he would bring it to the board next week.