In Eanes ISD, two former board presidents oppose the district’s proposed $89.5 million bond initiative. Al Cowan and Clint Sayers say that the proposal is not specific enough, and it asks taxpayers to fund unnecessary projects.
The past board presidents have formed the group Citizens for Academic Excellence in Eanes (CAEE). They say their biggest concern is the $35.5 million-plus that would be used to build a replacement elementary school.
"When the dust settles, EISD will still have the same number of six elementary schools that we have today, but we will have spent millions to get to the same place," Cowan says.
The district is asking voters for a total of $89.5 million:
- $53.2 million for major construction to include a district support facility and a new elementary school
- $8.4 million for technology upgrades
- $18.5 million in facility assessment
- $9.4 million for classroom upgrades
This is not the first time the group has opposed a bond initiative. Cowan helped lead the opposition campaign to a 2010 Eanes bond proposal that totaled $150 million. All bond propositions were voted down that year.
This year's bond proposal is the first since the district finalized its facilities master plan, a 10 year plan released in 2013 after a year-long process involving hundreds of community members. Eanes ISD representative Claudia McWhorter says the new elementary school proposed for the west side of the district would help EISD reach some of its larger goals, like eliminating portables.
Currently, preschool age children are spread across several district schools. The new school would have a Child Development Center consolidating preschool classrooms and opening up space at other schools. EISD's McWhorter says the school will also bring students closer to their homes, and help create a sense of community.
Cowan says he isn't against the responsible use of bonds to fund district projects, but the proposal has too much padding for things like cost overruns.
"The whole package lacks sufficient specificity," he says. "And I think it's fair for people that are spending their tax dollars to say, 'Give us something that is closer to what we expect to spend.' [The bonds] will increase the district's operating costs, add to the existing annual budgeted deficit of over $4.4 million, double the district's debt and ultimately drain money from academic programs and the classroom."
McWhorter says that EISD uses a "standard" 30 percent cushion for costs including architect fees, engineering and development fees and more – what she calls "a pretty standard number for construction projects." She adds that by law, any unused money must be spent within the confines of the bond proposals.
The last time voters approved an EISD bond proposal was in 2011. The EISD bond election is scheduled for May 10.