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Battle of the Bond: The fate of Ector County ISD's $291 million bond

(KOSA)
Published: Nov. 6, 2017 at 1:25 PM CST
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The fate of the Ector County ISD $291-million bond is now in the hands of voters.

If approved, here’s what that money will buy:

- A majority of the money ($131,000,480) will be used to build a brand new high school.

- Ector middle school would be converted back into a high school for $30,037,460.

- $62,514,557 would then be set aside to build a new middle school.

- $27, 115, 705 would be spent on installing a fiber-network to bring faster and more reliable internet district-wide.

- $29,563,545 would be spent on life cycle improvements to all campuses.

- $5,317,044 would be spent on fire and life safety upgrades.

- $4,500,000 would be used to upgrade locker rooms and weight rooms at Permian and OHS along with bathroom renovations at Ratliff Stadium.

- The remaining $1,123,500 would be spent on installing security entrances at all campuses.

CBS 7 explored both sides of the bond. Like anything that requires voter approval, there are people who feel very passionately about approving the bond proposal while others are adamant that it does not pass. Regardless, the fact is our schools are bursting at the seams and more students are coming.

Take a walk down a few hallways in Permian High School just before a passing period. It’s quiet, a few students or other faculty making their way through before the sea of students maneuver to their next class.

Principal Danny Gex says within seconds of the passing period bell sounding, about 1,000 students will make walk through just one hallway.

“It’s too packed. The hallways are too small,” he said.

It gets very busy very fast. That’s where the assistant principals come in. Two are assigned to each intersection keeping a close eye on all students.

Now imagine adding more students to the mix: that’s a reality Principal Gex and his team are preparing for and good luck finding a place to put them.

“There’s no doubt relief is needed. We’re 1200 over capacity,” Gex said. “We have our work cut out for us.”

Permian isn’t the only packed campus, same story at Odessa High School. Both campuses pushing 4,000 students when each is built to hold just over 2,500. That’s one of the driving forces behind the Ector County ISD Bond Committee’s recommendation for adding two more high schools.

“Realistically, we have to be making plans for the future and if we aren’t making them then it’s going to come up and we’re going to get slapped,” Chris Stanley, member of Ector County Kids Can’t Wait said.

Stanley is spearheading several community meetings to air out concerns and rally people to support the bond proposal. We found not everyone is board.

“The city is raising taxes, the hospital is raising taxes, Odessa College approved raising taxes and same with the county. All of that is coming into play and should’ve been discussed,” Odessa resident Grayson Hankins said.

The concerns don’t stop there; a political PAC ‘4 Kids Future’ spent more than a month campaigning for the bond and TRE. However, that group dissolved because of miscommunication about what exactly the TRE would fund.

“We were under the impression that the TRE would fund operation of new campuses and staff,” Collin Sewell with 4 Kids Future said. “The reality was for the next period of time until campuses open, that would restore the existing budget. That was not what we presented.”

The group also campaigned on the pretense that all ECISD staff would get a 2.5-percent raise.

“That was not an accurate statement. All non-teaching staff would at a 2.5% increase. Teaching staff would see a 1.5%,” Sewell said.

Here’s the state of the district: ECISD was forced to cut $20-million this year. Combine that with a growing student population and many feel the district is at a crossroads.

The most recent growth survey shows the district anticipates between 31,000 and 34,000 students by 2021. At the end of October, 32,334 were enrolled; a figure the district wasn’t expect to hit for another four years, according to a growth report.

“Regardless of what happens to the bond, those kids are coming. So if we continue to grow 200-250 a year, we’re looking at 500-700 more kids before anything is built,” Gex said. “The building can’t hold any more kids, you have to make decisions.”

Overcrowding is a reality the district will have to address, but voters will decide if passing the bond and TRE is the answer.

We’ve done some number crunching on how the bond would impact your taxes: the average home in Odessa is just over $100,000. That would equate to an extra $14 a month to your property taxes. That number goes up based on the value of your home.

Polls close this evening at 7p.m.

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The fate of Ector County ISD’s proposed $291-million bond will be decided Tuesday night.

Tonight at 10, we're taking a closer look at both sides of the bond issue. CBS 7’s Tatum Guinn spoke with people who feel very passionately about approving the bond proposal while others are amendment that it does not pass.

We found that our schools are bursting at the seams and more students are on the way.

"Regardless of what happens to the bond, those kids are coming. So if we continue to grow 200-250 a year, we're looking at 500-700 more kids before anything is built," Permian High School Principal Danny Gex said.

Right now the district has just over 32,300 students, a number not expected to hit for another four years according to a district growth report.

Don't miss the special report tonight on CBS 7 News at 10.