GISD Facilities

Paul Byers, the director of Facilities for the Galveston Independent School District, points out areas on the roof of Ball High School that are in need of replacement Jan. 13, 2017. Trustees may in November ask voters to approve a bond to make repairs.

STUART VILLANUEVA/The Daily News file

People interested in the future of Galveston Independent School District should plan to attend a meeting Thursday about a potential bond referendum.

The meeting will be the second of a citizen advisory committee formed to review the district’s facilities and make a recommendation about whether the school board should call a bond referendum, school board President Matthew Hay said.

School officials have been mulling a bond election since learning how much problems caused by deferred maintenance could cost in coming years.

Extensive work is needed on the roofs at Ball High School, Central Middle School, the Rosenberg Elementary School building, Scott Elementary School and former Alamo Elementary School, Director of Facilities Paul Byers reported to the trustees last year.

The roofs at Ball and Central are in the worst condition, he said.

The work on Ball High School, which was designated the highest priority repair, is estimated to cost about $5.5 million.

The district is coping with an aging bus fleet in need of repairs, Director of Transportation John Pruitt said.

The advisory committee was formed a few months after trustees decided not to call a November bond election.

The advisory board, which has about 50 members, would create a bond package for a May vote.

Committee members held their first meeting last week to review rules and create a schedule.

The committee will meet again Jan. 25 and Feb. 1, if needed, Hay said.

The soonest a bond referendum could be held is May 5.

The district hasn’t passed a bond proposition since 2003, when voters approved $69.45 million to renovate and modernize school facilities.

The district attempted a bond issue in May of 2010 for about $35 million to build a sports complex on 83rd Street to replace Kermit Courville Stadium, 1307 27th St.

We can call that 2003 bond election successful only in that voters approved issuing the debt. The thing went off the tracks in pretty much every other way, however, because district leaders insisted on using a scheme called job-order contracting, an “innovation” that allows public money to be spent without the trouble of competitive bidding.

Likewise, it would be an understatement to call the 2010 attempt to build a new stadium controversial; it was incendiary and the proposition failed in a vote of almost 70 percent against.

Be all that as it may, a lot of time has passed and much has changed.

Galveston public schools certainly need a capital infusion.

Along with work on the roofs at several campuses, the district is forced to bag up millions of dollars each year and send them to state, which has it running an operational deficit of about a $1 million a year. That also makes out-of-pocket spending on major repair projects very difficult.

So, a Galveston bond issue deserves a fair hearing.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

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