Early voting for Calhoun County ISD bond election in full swing

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Oct. 23, 2013 at 5:23 a.m.

The proposed $65 million Calhoun County ISD bond election will build a new middle school, renovate the other county schools and improve Sandcrab Stadium if approved by voters on Nov. 5.

"The proposal can't afford to fail," said Billy Wiggins, Calhoun County ISD superintendent. "Roofs, plumbing, windows and electricity have needed repairs for many years."

Improvements would add 17.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to the debt service tax rate for 10 years, said Wiggins. That is in addition to the 7.5-cent tax rate already charged to pay off the 2007 $22 million school bond project.

If approved, the bond would increase taxes on a $110,000 home, the average value of a home in the district, $10.65 per month, according to the Calhoun County ISD website.

The time is also right because construction costs continue to increase, Wiggins said. Work could begin during the summer.

Members of a capital improvement committee, which was formed at the end of 2012, visited each campus and recommended necessary improvements to the school board. Their plan totaled $47 million in improvements.

However, the board sent a bond proposal totaling $65 million to county voters.

The increase comes because the board proposed building a new Travis Middle School campus.

"I'm not happy that the board decided to increase the amount," said Brian Willoughby, a member of the capital improvement committee. "The largest deviation from the recommendation is the decision to build a new middle school rather than renovate."

The committee recommended that portions of the building be demolished and new academic wings be built, Willoughby said.

But another committee member agreed with the proposed increase.

"The committee proposed a $47 million bond thinking the board would not go for a new school," said Sandra Witte, attorney who served on the capital improvement committee. "We need to stop the Band-Aid fixes - the old building is not designed to be a good educational facility in 2013."

Witte also serves on the political action committee, Calhoun Proud, which was created to encourage county residents to vote for the bond proposal.

Architects estimate a 30-year life for the new middle school, Wiggins said. It would replace portions of the school built in 1955.

Portions renovated in 2001 would house support services such as special education, food services and technology, Wiggins said.

"We don't want to come back and ask for more money in 10 years to repair the older portions of the building," Wiggins said. "That's what happened with Jackson Roosevelt Elementary - lesson learned."

Calhoun County High School improvement plans include new lighting for the entire campus, complete renovation of the main interior and upgraded technology throughout the building, which will cost more than $11 million.

"The light fixtures at the high school are so old that you can't buy light bulbs to fit anymore," Witte said.



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