MFISD board calls for bond election

Lew K. Cohn/The Highlander
With their mother holding their hand, Marble Falls Elementary School students Anhelika Haught, 8, left, and Daniella Haught, 5, right, cross the parking lot Wednesday, Aug. 22, on the first day of school for students at Marble Falls ISD.

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

The Highlander

Marble Falls Independent School District voters will have one more thing to decide on the Nov. 6 general election ballot — a $55 million bond issue to make necessary improvements to campus facilities.

MFISD trustees voted unanimously at Monday night's regular meeting to call for the bond election after receiving a recommendation from a citizen-led committee last month.

“This bond issue would touch every campus in the district and we would be able to address these needs with bond funds without increasing our tax rate,” MFISD superintendent Dr. Chris Allen said. “In fact, we could reduce the tax rate and still be able to pass this bond. If reduced, this would be the second time the district has reduced the I&S (interest and sinking) tax rate in three years.

“The identified projects address current needs and anticipate the needs that will develop over the next five years and it benefits the maintenance and operations (M&O) budget with approximately $7 million of relief over the next five years.”

Allen said the 50-member MFISD Facilities Planning Committee reported three significant findings back to the board of trustees:

* The district has aging facility systems and components in need of repair, replacement or renovation;

* District facilities do not align with best practices associated with student safety and security; and

* Some district facilities are ineffective, inequitable and/or limit educational attainment.

If approved, the project would call for $21,612,690 to be spent on all campuses to perform upgrades and replacement to heating and air conditioning, roofing, plumbing, electrical, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, drainage and concrete.

It also includes safety improvements, such as lockdown systems and keyless access control panels for all buildings and improvements to vehicular circulation and parking on all campuses except Spicewood Elementary and Colt Elementary. The parking area at Marble Falls High School would be resealed and restriped only.

The project also would create dedicated mental health and counseling spaces at all campuses where students can meet privately with staff to receive necessary services.

Another $15,223,635 to be spent at Marble Falls High School, the largest single amount on any one campus. A new addition would be constructed at front which would connect multiple buildings, eliminate entry points to the campus, include a secured entry vestibule, new administration offices, collaboration spaces and a fine arts space.

The district would also build an addition which connects the existing high school cafeteria to existing library and commons area which would allow the high school to scale back from three lunch periods to just two, eliminating split class instruction periods.

The girls' locker space at Max Copeland Gymnasium would be expanded to bring it into compliance with federal Title IX statutes, due to the rapidly increasing growth of the girls' athletics program at MFHS.

The track at the high school stadium would be resurfaced, while the artificial turf would also be replaced on the football field as the turf rating for the field has reached a level which requires replacement.

Marble Falls Middle School would see $2,260,295 in upgrades with improvements to campus restrooms, an expansion to the cafeteria to promote more efficient use and ease overcrowding, and renovations to the existing band hall, which would improve acoustics in the building. At Marble Falls Elementary, $1,635,624 would be spent to renovate D wing to make it more equitable with the rest of the campus.

Highland Lakes Elementary School needs $2,732,712 in upgrades to create an addition between the main building and 600 wing which would connect the two buildings and reduce the number of entry points to make the campus safer. Also, the administration wing would be renovated and expanded to ease overcrowding and make it more equitable to other elementary campuses.

Finally, $11,772,113 would be spent to finish out office and restroom additions at the Transportation Building, purchase new buses with three-point safety harnesses, add technology equipment and infrastructure to buildings and to renovate the “pink building” at Marble Falls Elementary campus for future district use.

Board president Kevin Naumann praised the “awesome job the committee did in getting ahead of this.”

“The administration had great foresight to involve the community in this decision and to have good leaders involved and we appreciate all of the hard work you have done,” Naumann said.

The MFISD Facilities Planning Committee was led by Dan Burdett, owner of Burdett Hill Country Homes, and Steve Nash, owner of Nash Builders Inc.

Now that the election has been called, the administration will work with the board to get more specific about the scope and detail of projects to be performed and to hone in on actual costs of potential projects. Meanwhile, voter education efforts begin now and continue through to Election Day.

The last day to register to vote in the bond election is Oct. 9 with early voting being held from Oct. 22 through Nov. 2. An additional early voting location will be at First United Methodist Church of Marble Falls.

If approved, bonds could be issued as early as February 2019.

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