Skepticism as ECISD makes pitch for $220M school bond

EDINBURG — Citizens here voiced concerns about a tax increase among other issues associated with a proposed bond issue during a town hall meeting Tuesday at the Edinburg North High School library.

The Edinburg school district hosted the meeting to educate voters on the proposed $220 million bond up for a vote May 4. Early voting for the issue runs through April 30. If approved by voters, the proposed bond will go toward funding a new high school, middle school among other facilities and renovations.

The school board created presentations and information pamphlets with phrases such as “trust and transparency” to provide information on the bond. About $103 million will go to the high school, $45 million to the middle school, and $51 million split between two Career and Technical Education Centers. If passed, the maximum tax impact will increase by up to 4 cents to a $1.28 total tax rate, according to the district.

“Our purpose here is to provide the information, not to sway anybody in one way or another,” said Jorge Botello, the district’s area director for assessment and special populations, at the end of presentation.

Overcrowded schools, new facilities to alleviate CTE classes and renovation for elementary school gyms were among committee recommendations.

After the presentation, the conversation opened to the audience some of whom were retirees, watchdog group members and other stakeholders.

As administrators listened, they were met with criticism and questions regarding the district’s role in the bond election.

Members of the Objective Watchers of the Legal System, or OWLS, a watchdog group that frequents local city hall meetings, were also present.

Using current funds efficiently, questioning if the measure would further the tax burden on an area with high rates of poverty, and logistical implementations that would come with new construction projects funded by the bond, were some of the concerns audience members had for school administrators.

As the administrators presented and answered questions, audiences scoffed at the inclusion of “transparency” in the district’s phrasing, while some commented that the proposed bond is a “wishlist.”

Board Trustee Miguel “Mike” Farias, who voted against the bond proposal, was present and suggested a lower measure of $152 million that would not raise taxes.

“We can meet the needs of our district without the tax burden to the individuals that can’t already pay the taxes, much less everybody else,” Farias said.

Edinburg resident and OWLS member Cherlene Kuprel attended the meeting as she is concerned about increasing tax rates and where taxpayer money is going.

“All we want is the truth to come out, that’s all we want,” she said.

However, an audience member spoke up seemingly considering the proposal, commenting that creating a new high school may be needed along with the middle school. The Career and Technical Education Centers could also provide preparation for students who may not enter college, he added.

Edinburg schools Superintendent René Gutiérrez said it’s “up to the community” to decide on the outcome of the bond.

Previous bond projects in 1998 and 1999 included new schools and renovations to existing campuses. Edinburg voters approved of about $112 million school bond in 2008 according to the district website. The proposition included four elementary schools, two middle schools and fine arts centers at each high school.

The school district will host two additional town hall meetings on April 23 and April 24 at 5:30 p.m. at Vela High School Library and Edinburg High School Library respectively. More information regarding the bond election is available on the district website.

A DISCUSSION ON THE BOND

WATCH NOW: Edinburg CISD bond discussion