Victoria school district officials said Tuesday the bond proposals up for election this cycle would provide much needed, overdue improvements to deteriorating facilities across the district.
The district had to abandon Stroman Middle School because of 21 varieties of mold found in the building, Victoria school district Superintendent Quintin Shepherd said. “We had asbestos that covers the pipes, the HVAC system that’s crumbling, the plumbing that’s falling apart.”
Early voting began Monday, and Shepherd and Deputy Superintendent of Operations Greg Bonewald discussed four propositions on the ballot related to the school district when they stopped by Tuesday morning’s Victoria partnership meeting, organized by the Victoria Economic Development Corp.
The four propositions, if approved, will increase staff wages, provide district-wide repairs, and reconstruct two schools, Shepherd said.
The first proposition is a voter approval tax rate exemption, or VATRE, that would allow the Victoria Independent School District to raise staff wages to a competitive level in order to attract and retain qualified staff, Shepherd said.
“We’ve done numerous studies, and it doesn’t matter what classification of employee you’re talking about, whether it’s custodians, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, aides or even administrators, we undercompensate,” he said.
The second proposition is a bond that would provide $91 million to conduct district-wide repairs, according to Bonewald. These repairs would include HVAC systems, roofing, electrical, plumbing, safety and security systems, windows, building envelopes, gas lines, paving, accessibility and kitchens.
“It’s high priority, basic infrastructure for campuses to operate,” he said. “It’s not a silver bullet. It doesn’t fix everything, but it certainly does allow for a significant amount of improvement to be made.”
These repairs can go a long way toward recruiting staff, Shepherd said.
“When you can walk through multiple buildings we have, and it rains inside whenever it rains outside, that makes it really hard to recruit,” he said. “And, it’s hard for kids to learn.”
The VATRE would lower tax rates by 2.17 cents while the facility repairs bond would raise tax rates by 2.17 cents, meaning if voters approve both propositions, the tax rate would remain flat, Shepherd said.
Proposition B on the ballot is an $83.9-million bond to construct a new Stroman Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Middle School, Bonewald said.
Stroman is currently closed due to 21 varieties of mold found in the school and failing HVAC and plumbing systems, Shepherd said. Stroman students are now attending classes at Liberty Academy, which means that the middle school, the alternative high school and the credit recovery program are all on a single campus.
Proposition B would provide space for 1,200 students and support a STEM learning pathway for students, Bonewald said. It would increase the tax rate by 6.6 cents.
The final proposition, C, is for the construction of a new Mission Valley Elementary School. The core of the school is 84-years-old, Bonewald said, with the rest of the facility being constructed of temporary buildings that are around 35 years old.
Proposition C would see a tax rate increase of 2 cents, Bonewald said.
Toward the end of the meeting Bonewald pointed toward a “I voted” sticker stuck to his shirt and encouraged attendees to get out and vote.
“One of my missions is for us to have a broader voice,” he said. “We had about 15% of our community make a really important decision for the entirety of our community back in May. It would be great if a larger percentage of our community had a voice so we could actually know what the community wants.”