LONGVIEW (The Longview News Journal) — Voters were generous to two East Texas school districts and a countywide firefighter jurisdiction Saturday, voting themselves tax increases for new campuses and first responders.
Sabine ISD voters who had turned back a bond issue in 2009 overwhelmingly approved a similar measure Saturday. The district asked for a $19.8 million bond to build a new elementary campus, and 1,039 voters agreed while 543 were in opposition.
“I’m extremely excited for the kids, and I’m excited for the community,” Superintendent Stacey Bryce said once results were tallied. “It says this community is ready to move forward and have some change that they’ve not been able to have in the past several years.”
The proposal, for the district’s first debt since paying off the high school 10 years ago, will raise the tax rate by almost 28 cents to $1.32 per $100 property valuation.
The 2009 bond would have raised the rate by 42 cents.
This time around, trustees, teachers and a panel of supporters had fanned throughout the Class AA district speaking about an elementary campus they said has become inadequate.
Built in several stages since 1932, the school also was drafty and out of compliance with Texas Education Agency standards for classroom sizes and with modern disability act requirements.
“They worked extremely hard, and through their work they got the facts,” Bryce said. “And the voters decided they wanted a new school for their kids and elementary teachers. I was not surprised by the vote. I was excited by the difference in the amount of votes by the margin of the win.”
Henderson ISD voters also agreed to replace an aging campus, agreeing to build a new middle school with a $27 million price tag.
The bond passed with 1,515 approving the measure and 694 against it.
Supporters of the bond had noted during weeks leading to the election that no organized opposition had made itself known.
They pointed to lack of capacity at the 60-year-old middle school on Richardson Drive, where 10 temporary buildings had been added to serve 770 students.
The younger Lions promise more congestion, with 900 students now in kindergarten through second grade.
Bond proponents also said the 44 campus entrances, created by all the separate classroom structures, created a security hazard.
The Henderson bond proposal asked voters to add 9 more cents to a $1.18 tax rate. That would add $58.50 to the annual tax on a $100,000 home, with no exemptions claimed.
The new middle school is planned on the practice field of today’s campus.
Countywide voters also OK’d a tax hike to support the Rusk County Emergency Services District. The 530-332 margin approved the first tax increase since the coalition of 17 fire departments formed in 1990.
The 3-cent tax rate will go to 7 cents, and the ballot allows trustees to raise it as high as 10 cents.
Supporters of the district said the wildfires of 2011 had burned its budget while lawmakers in Austin continue to siphon off funding dedicated to fire services.