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Bond committee reaches consensus on projects to present to school board

ECISD’s 2023 Bond Committee met for the final time Thursday night, and appears to have reached a consensus on the projects it will present to the school board as recommendations for the district’s next bond proposal. But there is still some work left for the group to do.

During the last two meetings, eight separate work groups reviewed needs, wants, and costs, then set up Tiers (1,2, and 3) of their group’s highest priorities. All of the groups agreed upon the need for a new Career & Technical Education center, Priority 1 and Priority 2 maintenance and repairs, plus Transportation, Fine Arts and Technology needs. From there, opinions varied on things such as a new elementary school, a new middle school, athletics needs, the Ag Farm, the Transition Learning Center, and a new high school.

One thing the group agreed upon is the need to keep the bond price tag at a level that will not require ECISD to raise its tax rate. Currently, ECISD leaders project the district could take on a bond package of about $396 million without increasing the tax rate and that number could increase by the time a bond election is held.

The meeting ran long, as committee members continued discussions about the areas on which they differed. In the end, they agreed on a recommendation of 10 projects: a new CTE center, Priority 1 and Priority 2 maintenance/repairs, technology improvements, fine arts needs, Transportation needs, Ag Farm needs, Transition Learning Center needs, athletics needs and a new middle school. Still to be determined are the dollar figures to be invested in each of those areas, and keeping that figure under the threshold of a tax rate increase. The Board of Trustees will have the final responsibility for doing this before a bond election is called.

This final meeting began with a presentation from renowned Texas economist Dr. Ray Perryman. His economic forecast for Texas and the Permian Basin is continued population growth. He gave an example of the boom seen locally between 2013-2022 when 9,400 houses were built in Ector County – a total that was 37% higher than previous 30 years. Dr. Perryman said he anticipates another 8,000 or so homes to be built here in the next decade. In addition, he cites the need for 310,000 additional workers in the Permian Basin by the year 2050, with 62,000 of those needed in Ector County. Dr. Perryman also quoted a report from the United States Department of Energy that forecasts the worldwide need for energy will require 30% more oil and natural gas than today (even with a 350% increase in renewable energy), and he pointed out the oil from the Permian Basin has the lowest carbon content of any on-shore source in the world. In summary, he said the economic future of this region is strong, families and kids will continue to be here and they will need good schools to support them.   

The committee also took a few minutes to review the last successful school district election, the Tax Ratification Election (TRE) in 2018, and the “Promises Made, Promises Kept” list of completed projects. A group of community members formed a TRE Oversight committee and met regularly with school district officials after the election, ensuring that the four outlined goals of the TRE were followed: raises for all employees, bus replacements and a regular replacement each year thereafter, controlled access entry doors and security fencing where needed, and roof replacements at 27 facilities damaged by hail. The final three packages of replacements are being bid now.