Candidates for the Keller school board discussed bond elections, the district’s level of debt, the biggest challenges and their qualifications at a forum April 22 at the Keller ISD Education Center.
Audience members submitted questions to the panel of three candidates in a discussion facilitated by the League of Women Voters of Tarrant County and sponsored by the Keller Council of PTAs.
Place 6 incumbent Brad Schofield and challenger David Gerda participated, along with Place 7 Trustee Ruthie Keyes, who is running unopposed after her opponent opted not to pursue the seat. Since Keyes is unopposed, her comments are not included in this story.
When asked to describe his qualifications and what he would bring to the board, Gerda said his business background—both as a small business owner and his experience of turning around companies—gives him leadership skills.
“I think I can find ways to get more funding,” Gerda said.
Gerda, 52, owns an automotive repair business in Keller and was co-chair of the “Vote Yes” committee in the November bond election.
Schofield, 51, just completing his first term as trustee, said his experience as a certified public accountant gives him a unique perspective.
“I’m the only one with a financial background on the board,” Schofield said.
The ability to analyze budget numbers is especially important as the board oversees the implementation of the $169 million bond package, he said.
The two candidates agreed on the biggest challenge facing the Keller school district: inadequate state funding.
“We are one of the lowest funded districts in the area,” Schofield said.
Trying to secure better funding should be the board’s top priority, he said.
Gerda said that the Keller school district is in the bottom 25 percent in terms of per pupil funding it receives from the state and lags behind its neighbors.
“We need to get dollars back that they’ve taken from us at the state level,” Gerda said.
KISD debt load
A number of questions focused on the amount of district debt, which is one of the highest in the area.
Gerda said that Keller’s debt is so high because of the area’s “incredibly fast growth in the last 14 years.”
He said he was not concerned about future debt because the area is nearing build out and continues to grow in taxable values.
“We’re entering into a more mature part of the life cycle,” Gerda said.
Schofied said that the district’s debt needed to be monitored and paid off as quickly as possible.
Instead of lowering the tax rate for bond debt in a few years, he said he thought the district should keep it at the same level.
“We need to focus on needs and focus on getting debt down,” Schofield said.
When asked if they would support another KISD bond in the next ten years, both candidates said it depended on the situation.
“I think the most important thing is to look at the financial condition of the school district,” Schofield said.
If the amount of debt had been reduced, another bond could be considered.
“If we haven’t cut the debt much, it’s probably not a good time for a bond,” he said.
Gerda said that the district is about finished building new schools but could need repairs to older facilities. His support would depend on what the bond was for.
“The last bond was about the first one I’ve ever voted for,” Gerda said.
Early voting for the May 9 election runs April 26 to May 5.
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231