TISD Bond Phase One Focuses On Elementary Schools

Tyler ISD's proposed bond package totals $386 million -- enough to give folks some sticker shock.

But taking a lesson from the failure of the last bond package, the district wants to tackle only the most pressing needs first with bonds totaling $100 million.

Still it will mean higher taxes:  an increase of $137 for the owner of a $100,000 dollar home, and $56.42 for an owner of a $50,000 home.

The state of elementaries is first in Dr. Simmons arsenal of arguments for this first phase of bonds.

Simmons "The age and condition of our elementaries, the number of portables at our elementary schools, and the number of children being taught in those buildings [are the most pressing issues.]"

In Tyler's elementary schools, the average campus age is 51 years old, compared with middle schools at 48 years, and high schools at 38.  The oldest elementary school was built in 1903.

Also, nearly a third of all elementary students hold class in portables. That's compared with 16 percent of middle school students, and three percent of high schools.

"We want to take on the most pressing needs first, and I hope people who have interest at all levels not be swayed negatively by this approach, but this is part of a the master plan," Simmons says.

This master plan will focus on remodeling or replacing the elementaries in the worst condition, as well as building a new school to relieve massive overcrowding at Owens and Rice in South Tyler.

Simmons wants to finish phase one for under $100 million.

"It's realistic in the 2007-2008 school year, we would see the completion of those first projects, and come back to the voters and show we have been good stewards of the funds," he says.

Under the plan as Simmons sees it, all projects at every school would not be finished for twelve years.

"I know this seems like a long time, but our facilities' condition did not get this way overnight, it's not going to get corrected overnight. We have to stay the course."

Simmons is looking at having phase one ready for voters to decide on during the November 2nd general election. He says avoiding a special election will save the district nearly $50,000.

You can see specifics of Phase One first hand next Tuesday night. The public forum will be held at 6:00 p.m. at the Plyler Complex on West Glenwood.

The plan will be presented and the public will be given time to ask questions.

Morgan Palmer, reporting.