The Victoria Independent School District will reconvene its bond planning task force.
The task force will start meeting Monday to discuss possible November bond options, along with the possibility of a voter-approved tax rate. Anyone can join the task force and can participate by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The task force’s formation comes after a special meeting earlier this month. During the meeting, board members were divided on the size of a possible bond and a tax rate they would like to pass. The one thing they did agree on was getting more community input.
The possible voter-approved tax rate would look to increase teacher salaries, but that decision must be made by the community during a November election.
“Public feedback should drive the task force,” board member Tami Keeling said during the meeting.
Superintendent Quintin Shepherd said expanding the task force will be difficult. He noted the number of ways the district reached out to the public for the last task force, which had about 40 people. It’s a challenge he and the district face moving toward a November election.
“One of the things that I can control is I can ask the board members to come.That’s seven people. And I can ask the board members to bring a friend or two that’s another seven to 14 people that might come along,” said Shepherd, as district officials prepare for the first task force meeting. “We’ve reached out to people who we know are connectors and the community, and ask them to see if they can bring people along, as well.”
The hope is to have a bigger group with more diverse opinions, Shepherd said.
“Our community needs to be a part of the planning and deciding and, ultimately, enacting whatever it is, whatever future state we want to be,” he said.
The task force’s creation comes after another failed bond by Victoria’s school district. In May, Victoria voters struck down a $156.8 million bond package that looked to rebuild two campuses and finance updates throughout the district.
The bond package was supported by the previous bond planning task force and the board, but when it came to the ballot box, it fell short.
Newest board member Mandy Lingle said she supports a tax increase, but she also recognizes that the district had two failed bonds in the last five years. She is concerned that even with a community task force, the community will not approve a bond package that comes with a tax increase.
“It’s a community based decision, but it’s a voter based outcome,” she said.
The bond struck down in May was not the first failed bond for the district. In 2017, voters struck down another bond that looked to rebuild several campuses and an athletic complex.
The last time Victoria voters approved a bond was in 2007. That bond led to the construction of Victoria East and West high schools, Torres Elementary School and Schorlemmer Elementary School.
Now is the time for the community to determine, through the task force, what type of bond it would like to see.
The only requirement that comes with being a part of the new task force is coming prepared, Shepherd said. There is little time to rehash the 40-plus hours of information shared to the previous task force.
The plan is to pick up where the last task force ended and move forward.
“I do believe, I firmly believe that if you get 50-60 people who are committed to be really smart and make really good decisions for the future of our community,” Shepherd said. “They will land on something that makes a lot of sense.”