Silsbee ISD Superintendent Richard Bain and representatives of Claycomb and Associates of Austin, went into further explanations of the upcoming bond proposal scheduled to be added to a May election.
The school has until March 1 to come up with a proposal before it may be added to a May election, according to state standards.
What started as a potential bond of $25 million for a new elementary school, now has turned to a focus of a $29 million bond proposal.
The newest figure comes after discussion of building a new elementary school to accommodate first through fifth grades and renovating Laura Reeves Elementary to house a pre-kindergarten through kindergarten classes. The figure also includes improvements to Edwards Johnson Memorial Silsbee Middle School.
The small group of committee members attending the meeting consisted of residents, business people, and teachers and administrators of Kirby and Read-Turrentine Elementary schools.
Claycomb and Associates President Kevin Smith and Bain asked for the citizen’s input, as well as address any issues they could study further in helping to move forward.
“I wish we had more people tonight,” said Bain at the onset of the meeting. “We are really getting down to where we need to make decisions.”
The proposal asks for the building of a new elementary school in between the existing Laura Reeves and Read-Turrentine campuses. After the completion of the new school, Read-Turrentine would then be razed. After Read-Turrentine is razed, the property could be used for parking and/or playing fields to be used by the school.
“Most of all the decisions we make will be a part of the design process,” said Smith. “The design process will happen in front of the board, in front of the teachers, in front of your principals and this committee. I hope this committee comes up and helps us work on that also, because we want your input. This is your community’s schools.”
Claycomb came up with a cost of a new elementary school at roughly $24.3 million. Razing Kirby Elementary and Read-Turrentine would cost $663,000.
Renovations to Laura Reeves, which include a new vestibule, secured entrance with card readers, HVAC replacement of every unit, replacing lighting fixtures, gas and plumbing restoration, new roof, new electrical work, and insulation come at a cost of $1.2 million.
Middle School renovations would include HVAC replacement including gas lines, HVAC split systems, new lighting fixtures, plumbing, and a secure entrance with card readers. The cost would be $2.8 million.
Silsbee is currently qualified for $6.3 million in qualified school construction bonds (QSCB), which allows that amount to be financed interest free.
An example of a $30 million bond passing would see Silsbee taxes on an average homestead appraised at $100,000 increase to $193.92 annually or $16.16 monthly. That includes a homestead exemption of $15,000.
A home with an appraised value of $150,000 would see a tax increase of $307.99 annually or $25.67 monthly.
Taxes on those 65 or older will not be raised on homesteads in Silsbee.
Committee concerns were for the community supporting a $29 million bond, but understand the needs of Silsbee ISD and the poor condition of the Kirby and Read-Turrentine Elementary schools.
The old middle school property was also discussed by Bain, explaining of programs being transferred to existing areas. Bain told the committee that old science buildings at EJMSMS are not in use and can be utilized for discipline classes as an example. He also noted that the existing high school was built to accommodate 1,400 students and has room to hold the accelerate programs.
“We would be able to relocate all of these programs in one summer,” said Bain. “We can try to find a way to best ourselves of that property. I know the city would be very interested in that property.”
Pre-K was a hot discussion with Bain, telling the committee the importance of having the added grade level. Teachers within the committee all agreed.
“We need a Pre-K desperately, so desperately,” added Bain. “To me, if we are going to best ourselves of that property, make better use of what we have and build a smaller building that what we would have built, it will be instrumental in our vertical alignment.”
Bain also noted an importance of a new elementary on the property adjacent to Laura Reeves would eliminate transportation across town, instructional value increasing with all faculty working close and the savings in funds by having energy efficient campuses.
QSCB bonds would be eliminated if a bond did not pass. The state has rolled over the QSCB amount for Silsbee ISD, but this would be the last chance the district would be able to use the bonds issued.
“The problem across the state is that a lot of school districts have put off taking care of needs within the district and that causes a large influx of bonds needed by May,” said Smith. “Then we’ll have a large amount of projects being bidded out that may take a six to eight month process. The problem is that in this amount of time, we’ll have inflation. We included a five percent increase, because we just don’t know at this time. We want to carry out our promise to this community and build the needs of the schools within the budget we set.”
Claycomb Associates has been doing construction needs for school districts in Texas for 32 years and worked on over 100 school districts.
“We had a $15 million high school built for $22 million,” one business member of the committee said. “We would like some reassurance that we won’t have that problem again.”
Claycomb is currently working on facilities at Livingston High School and have done a similar project at Diboll building two elementary schools.
The architectural firm would work closely with the school board and committees in coming up with a design and plan, something the firm has done on a regular basis with all of its clients.
“$8-10 million would have a similar tax to that of a $29 million bond, but over an extended time,” an elementary teacher said.
“I don’t think that we can wait until November,” another businessman of Silsbee said. “Are we prepared to be struck down or wait another six months? Then we lose our QSCB’s. Something has to get moving.”
Both Read-Turrentine and Kirby Elementary schools are in excess of 50 years old.