VISD officials to revisit bond after Tuesday's defeat

Gabriella Canales By Gabriella Canales

Nov. 8, 2017 at 10:06 p.m.
Updated Nov. 8, 2017 at 10:25 p.m.

In the wake of Victoria school district constituents rejecting a proposed bond, officials now have to decide how to address the district's urgent needs.

"Aging facilities, extensive maintenance costs, technology, infrastructure, communications systems - those are all things that are necessary to address," Superintendent Robert Jaklich said Wednesday. "The biggest takeaway is our message was not communicated articulately ... we need to do a better job of informing the community."

District officials are discussing more opportunities for community members to be involved in the bond package decision-making process, he said.

In addition to a lack of community involvement, Hurricane Harvey also created timing concerns, Jaklich said.

"People are trying to put their lives back together," he said.

Reserve money was used to pay for hurricane repairs with the plan to replenish the reserve fund with bond money if hurricane damage correlated specifically to a bond project.

Insurance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be used to cover repairs because the bond did not pass, he said.

No new money is coming in to the district, Jaklich said.

"The only way the district is going to receive more money is to recapture dollars in our own system," he said. The bond's success would have recaptured $2 million, he said.

District officials are not discussing increasing the tax rate next year, he said.

Future success of a bond package entails community perspective and support, Jaklich said.

"I believe the community supports the school district," he said. "Really, it came down to a decision about money and how to best utilize tax dollars at this current time in the community."

People who oppose the bond agree the public should be part of the planning process.

Emett Alvarez, a former Victoria City Council member said Tuesday night that school district officials must go back to the drawing board.

Alvarez's issue was the lack of community engagement before the bond election was called, he said.

"They should have gone to schools, parents and brought them into these facilities and had them participate," Alvarez said.

The previous bond should be paid off or paid down before approving another, he said.

Next year would be too soon to try again because district officials need to know what is on the minds of residents, Alvarez said.

"I trust they'll go back to the drawing board, analyze what went right and what went wrong, study the issue more and do a better job of outreach in the coming months and years," he said.

Projects need to be reconsidered to promote academics, said Shane Morris, another bond opponent.

"We, as citizens, now have the responsibility to help the school board achieve what they need to achieve in a more reasonable manner," Morris said. "Everything they wanted was not necessary."

The reasons for the projects, including the press box and walking trail with Wi-Fi, should be made clear, he said.

Although the Committee for Victoria's Future was founded to educate the public about the bond, chairman William Blanchard said his group could have done a better job.

"We were pretty convinced it was the right time for many reasons, including the hurricane, low interest rates and low school taxes when compared to other school districts in the state," Blanchard said.

If school board members adjust the package, they should listen to the public so they can shape a proposal that residents can support, Blanchard said.

Jaklich said the bond's defeat and any possible future proposal would be discussed at upcoming board meetings. He said the timing of the next bond package will be a board decision.



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