Lewis Wilks of Coastal Securities in Houston discusses finance options on bond proposals for Silsbee ISD. - Photo by Daniel Elizondo
Though Silsbee ISD reneged on its 40 million proposal for a bond to be put on a voting ballot last year, facility needs and priorities have not changed as May elections draw near.
School Superintendent Richard Bain called for the community and its input on several proposals to help come up with a solution to the growing problem of facilities throughout the school district.
“We need to move in a direction that is best for the kids,” Bain said. “We have to do something and we need help from the community.”
Bain called for the meeting held on Thursday to help the community understand the district’s needs and listen to newly hired architect firm of Claycomb Associates on several proposals that would fit the need of Silsbee ISD.
Silsbee first brought forth a proposal of $40 million last year under PBK Architects that would build a new middle school campus and renovate the existing middle school to house pre-K through 5th grades.
Because of public outcry from unhappy citizens, the district decided not to pursue the bond process last year, but a committee has continued to meet and study a different direction.
“Read-Turrentine and Kirby Elementary schools are our biggest problems,” added Bain. “It’s extremely important that everyone keep an open mind and see the areas that need to be addressed.”
Both Kirby and Read-Turrentine campuses are in excess of 55 years old with both receiving minor facelifts 17 years ago.
Bain told a group of citizens on Thursday that the highest priority for the campuses throughout the district are HVAC replacements, air quality improvements on older campuses, lighting retrofits across district, electrical upgrades at elementary and middle school campuses, repainting and sealing of high school campus exterior, plumbing replacement and upgrades at elementary and middle school campuses, and safety upgrades on all campuses.
Claycomb Associates President Kevin Smith addressed the group on Thursday of options for Silsbee that included new buildings, reconstruction and/or renovations.
“Some of us may walk into one of the elementary campuses as always, squint eyes and say that nothing really has changed and it all looks fine,” Smith said. “But when you add up key points of areas that need to be addressed like electrical and plumbing, then that’s when we begin to see problems.”
According to Smith, the cost to build new facilities would be in the $170 per square foot range that includes site work and utilities. Reconstruction of old buildings would be in a range of $110-$135 per square foot.
“We need to find out what is best for our kids educationally and for taxpayers,” Smith said.
If the district chose renovations throughout the elementary campuses, portable units would need to be purchased to house children for teaching, which could cost as much as $1 million. With portable units, then security issues would also need to be addressed.
Lewis Wilks of Coastal Securities told the group that Silsbee ISD is eligible to receive $6.3 million in qualified schools construction bonds (QSCB), meaning that $6.3 million would be interest free and paid by the state.
Some proposed plans would be the reconstruction of elementary campuses and upgrades on other facilities that could reach $8-$10 million. Other options include new facilities that could be $15-25 million.
One of the options includes some remodeling and paying a debt in 10 years before revisiting a new building proposal.
Claycomb told the group that combining all the elementary campuses into one new unit would be a feasible option without disrupting the classroom.
$25 million would be an estimate for a new facility to hold a pre-k through fifth grade that would include a centered core space. The space would separate the younger children from the older.
Wilks gave examples of 10-year ammortizations that would match up with current tax rates from the four example figures.
The highest rate of the $8 million bond would result in a .11¢ tax increase from what Silsbee ISD tax payers are currently paying. A $25 million bond could see taxes increase by .14¢.
Silsbee ISD currently has a debt of $1.5 million from the high school and it will be paid in 10 years.
Receiving a QSCB debt service from the state would allow the district to pay off the debt in 10 years and be interest free on $6.3 million of a particular bond chosen.
Many elementary teachers were on hand in the meeting to get input on new facilities throughout the campuses.
“We have leaks beyond leaks in my classroom,” one teacher said. “There are also holes in walls, horrible lighting, bad temperatures – it is either very hot or freezing cold. We even found a snake in one of the restrooms.”
The district maintains to keep the community abreast of changing situations and wants more input from citizens.
“This is very important and we need to move quickly,” Bain said. “Let’s keep an open mind and not forget about what is best for our children. If we can educate ourselves, we can all make the right decision that is best for our children here in Silsbee.”