BY Ian Griffin
Camp County voters will head to the polls on Nov. 8 to vote on a proposed $88.3 million school bond for the Pittsburg Independent School District. The bond addresses safety and security concerns, spacing issues and also includes a plan for a new high school campus.
During a board meeting on August 15, the Pittsburg ISD Board of Trustees unanimously called for an $88,350,000 bond election to be held on November 8, 2022 based on the recommendations from the Facility Planning Committee who met during the spring and summer of 2022. The bond is up for consideration and on the ballot for the upcoming November election. Property taxes would increase an estimated $27.68 per month. For reference, a home valued at $172.886 would pay a $332 yearly increase in property taxes.
A committee of 20-25 members, which included a cross-section of the Pittsburg community, reviewed the district facilities by studying the campus capacities and touring the individual campuses. The review was conducted in cooperation with BWA Architects who were hired by the PISD Board of Trustees in December 2021. The committee met 10 times between March and August of this year to report their findings.
The Pittsburg ISD website says the consensus of the District’s Long Range Facility Plan, included safety and security concerns along with the space constraints at the lower campuses. According to the district’s webpage, the age of some of the facilities including the high school, built in 1973, and the junior high, built in 1980, drove recommendations for updates and improvements. Additionally, several of the campuses are spread out and compromise the safety and security of students.
Terry Waldrep, PISD superintendent, said the bond is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Waldrep said the district must ensure it has space for every student.
“The bond was based on need not want.” Waldrep said. “Space constraints are the number one issue, for all students.”
Pittsburg ISD has five campuses in its purview. Waldrep said the school district serves an estimated enrollment of 2,400 students.
Major proposals include the construction of a three-story 128,000 square foot high school building. Along with the new high school campus, the bond also covers the provisions for a new road that would connect the high school with the junior high to divert traffic from Broach and Elm Street. The road would eliminate the need to use Texas, Broach and Elm streets for bus access.
The junior high campus would also see the addition of a freestanding cafeteria building, and a 16-classroom wing, a new life skills building as well as other remodels. The intermediate and elementary campuses, two of the lower grade schools, currently share a gym. Through recommendations, the bond calls for a new PE building dedicated to the intermediate school students. This would alleviate some safety concerns by discontinuing the need for those students to walk to the elementary campus for physical education activities. The bond also calls for new security fencing and gates to be installed in front of the school cafeteria.
The price of the bond coupled with inflation and a current recession is concerning to several Camp County citizens. Pittsburg resident Debby Efurd said she was surprised by the initial price of the bond, but after a tour of the campus she said she understands the need for improvements.
“When I first heard of it, I said, ‘Oh my God. That’s a lot of money’ and I went to two different presentations, and I toured the school,” Efurd said. “I know from history that unless you take care of the infrastructure, you are really not taking care of the kids.”
Bruce Carter, a Camp County resident, for the last two years, said he opposes the proposed property tax increase.
“I am against the taxation portion of the bond,” Carter said. “I do support them being able to take care of building maintenance and things like that. Forcing people to pay for it is not what I support. I will vote no.”
Camp County resident Jared Garrett offered a different solution than a property tax. “Putting a pretty poor county that is already in debt, with a small population, places a tremendous amount of new debt on property owners,” Garrett said. “A sales tax would be fairer than a property tax.”
Still, other Camp County residents insist the physical state of the schools are in disrepair and the tax is appropriate. Joey Saxon said the “depressing” state of the buildings motivated him to vote yes in November.
“I think it is the right thing to do for the community and students,” Saxon said. “It is a depressing environment and not conducive for learning students.”
Tina Myrow, a nursing student at Northeast Texas Community College, echoed Saxon’s sentiment about the need for renovations. However, she said the bond is too expensive.
“I am all about the school system,” Myrow said. “It does need upgrades and improvements, but this just screams overspending to me.”
As election day approaches Camp County voters will have the opportunity to head to the polls to have the final say.
For more information on the PISD bond election visit bond.pittsburgisd.net. Early voting continues through Nov. 4 and election day is Nov. 8.