The Bellville Independent School District is proposing a bond of $49.5 million for the 2023 school year. The bond includes two major projects; the construction of a new Bellville Junior High School and renovations/improvements throughout the district. The bond is projected to raise the I&S Tax Rate by one cent, and early voting has already begun with election day being on May 6, 2023.
The proposed bond aims to address concerns related to safety, capacity, age, and condition of the schools in the district. According to the BISD Bond 2023 Info Sheet, O’Bryant Primary and O’Bryant Intermediate schools have been relying on portable buildings to accommodate students and staff, which does not meet the current safety standards. The proposed new Bellville Junior High School will be built with 133,000 square feet of space, enough to house 700 students, which is a significant improvement compared to the current facility.
The bond also addresses the capacity issue at Bellville Junior High School, which was originally designed to accommodate around 300 students. Over the years, the school has added classrooms, and the number of students has increased to approximately 565, resulting in congestion in core areas such as hallways, cafeteria, kitchen, gym, and band hall.
Renovations and improvements identified as priority needs in the Bellville Independent School District include HVAC system replacement at Bellville High School, O’Bryant Primary School roof and HVAC system replacement, and West End Elementary window replacements and restroom additions. The bond proposal also entails reconfiguring traffic flow and parking at O’Bryant Primary School and Bellville Junior High School sites, removing all portables at O’Bryant Primary School and O’Bryant Intermediate School, and demolishing the oldest parts of O’Bryant Intermediate School.
The bond proposal does not depend on expectations of growth; the capacity issues being addressed are based on current enrollment. The reason for building a new Bellville Junior High School instead of a new O’Bryant Intermediate School is that the current Bellville Junior High School can accommodate the transition of 3rd grade from O’Bryant Primary School and 4th-5th grades from O’Bryant Intermediate School without any additions. If a new O’Bryant Intermediate School were to be built, the existing Bellville Junior High School would require an addition to accommodate current enrollment.
The proposed location for the new Bellville Junior High School is on the field in front of the existing campus. Although traffic is already a problem in the area, building on the current site allows the new campus to continue using existing athletic facilities, including practice fields, stadium, and tennis courts. Additionally, the existing site has space to reconfigure traffic flow and parking for both the new and existing campuses.
The bond proposal does not include teacher raises because school districts are funded through two separate portions of the total district tax rate. The Maintenance & Operations rate is set by the Texas Education Agency and provides for teachers’ salaries. The Interest & Sinking (I&S) portion of the tax rate is set by the local board to support bond debt.
Property owners are taxed for public schools because the Texas Constitution mandates that it is the duty of the state legislature to make suitable provision for an efficient system of public free schools. These provisions are the laws that regulate property taxes for the purposes of public education.
While the district has some bonding capacity without raising the tax rate, the amount generated would not allow them to address all identified needs at all campuses. The bond proposal, therefore, aims to minimize the impact as much as possible. Voting day for the Bellville Independent School District bond will be on May 6, 2023.