Fort Worth trustees call for $490 million bond election

Posted Friday, Aug. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Voters will got to the polls on Nov. 5 to consider three propositions in a $490 million bond package to fund schools projects.

Trustees voted unanimously at a special meeting on Friday to go forward with the bond referendum, the Fort Worth school district’s first bond since November 2007 when voters approved a $593.6 million package that included five new schools.

“It’s very important we move now because of the benefits that pay off for our children. Now we will go out to the voters and we’ll present our plan. Our job is to give them facts about what we have in the bond proposal,” said Fort Worth school district Superintendent Walter Dansby. “There is something here for every single child in the Fort Worth Independent School District, no matter where they live and it’s so important to me that we provide the very best that we can possibly provide for every single child.”

Before the vote, several speakers addressed the board, including representatives from the business community and two educators groups who hailed the plan.

Jamie Grant, board chairman of the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce, said the organization supports the bond.

“This an investment for our next critical global thinkers, for our next skilled workers and for our next leaders,” Grant said.

Other speakers asked the board to postpone the referendum to allow time for further scrutiny of the projects.

Parent Jonathan Scott said while the package includes elements that will improve schools, the board is rushing the measure to the ballot in November.

“The poor and incomplete communication and seemingly chaotic decision-making process surrounding this bond have caused many parents to question whether the district and the board truly have a long-term vision for the district’s future,” he said.

Trustee Tobi Jackson urged administrators to improve communication with the public.

“Our community has spoken tonight. They want clearer communication regarding this bond. I know we can do that,” she said.

Jackson added: “I strongly considered delaying this bond for a while. I thought and thought about it. A delay will cost not only time for our students but it will also cost money.”

The school district on Thursday launched a page on its website with details on the bond program and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce created a political action committee called “Citizens Supporting Classroom Excellence.” In coming weeks, plans are to create an informational video and host town hall meetings to give details about the the projects. Information will be offered in English and Spanish.

The town hall meetings will be held at campuses throughout the district beginning Sept. 5, according to the website.

The bond projects were recommended by consulting firm AECOM, which managed the 2007 bond program. The district in November 2012 hired AECOM to provide pre-construction support services for this year’s bond program under a contract for up to $2.3 million.

Trustees and administrators worked to pare down a list of $785 million in projects and organized them into three propositions to give voters a choice on what they will support.

The city of Fort Worth plans to hold a separate $292 million road and street dominated bond referendum in May 2014.

How the bond breaks down

The projects include:

• A $386.6 million ‘base proposition’ that includes a new high school complex in Benbrook, classroom additions, kitchen/dining room projects, security and technology improvements, districtwide pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds, building new fieldhouses at 13 high schools and renovations to some career technology programs and specialized Gold Seal Programs of Choice.

The proposal includes a 20 classroom addition at Paschal High that would accommodate 500 students, an eight classroom addition at McLean Sixth to handle 200 students and 14 classrooms at Tanglewood Elementary that would handle 300 students.

• Spending $73.3 million to build two campuses for grades six through 12, one for a performing and fine arts academy and another for a science, technology, engineering and math academy.

• $30 million for non-construction projects such as new buses and maintenance trucks, band uniforms and instruments.

Tax rate would go up 3 cents

If voters approve all three propositions, it would add 3 cents to the tax rate, currently $1.322, with $1.04 for operations and 28 cents for debt repayment, said Deputy Superintendent Hank Johnson.

The first proposition would add about 1 cent to the tax rate. That would cost $10 more per year for a $115,599 home with a $15,000 homestead exemption, the value of an average home in the district. Proposition 2 would add 1.25 cents and proposition 3 would add 0.75 cents for a total of $30 per year on an average home, Johnson said.

“We are just excited that we did this vote tonight and that it was unanimous,” said Christene Moss, school board president. “I am going to attend the many community forums to give them information about the bond program and answer any questions people have.”

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326 Twitter: @jessamybrown

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