The Daily News editorial board supports Galveston Independent School District’s attempt to pass a $31 million May bond referendum, which the board of trustees voted to call at a meeting Wednesday night.
Servicing the debt on a bond issue of that amount wouldn’t require a tax increase, district officials have said. And it would provide enough money for the district to begin working to repair about $65 million in physical-plant problems at island public schools.
A lot of those problems, which include repairs needed to the roofs at Ball High School, Central Middle School, the Rosenberg Elementary School building, Scott Elementary School and the former Alamo Elementary School, are the result of deferred maintenance, district officials have said.
The entire community has a stake in keeping public school facilities in good shape, and doing so always is a pay-now or pay-later proposition. Boards in the past chose the pay-later option and later has arrived.
The best-case scenario for the district is to pass this modest bond proposal without any trouble while, through a community committee, it comes up with a plan for a more expensive bond proposition for voters to consider sometime in the near future.
The next possible date for the second bond referendum would be in November on the final regular Election Day of 2018, but there has been some discussion about delaying the second proposition for a full year until May 2019.
Assuming voters in May agree that approving a $31 million bond with no tax increase is, as one of our readers put it, “a no-brainer,” the real work will be in preparing for the second and larger bond, which would almost certainly require a tax increase of some amount.
The first part of that second effort will be hiring a consultant to conduct a full facilities and demographic study, Superintendent Kelli Moulton said.
We’d urge voters to remember that the last time the district successfully passed a bond proposition was in 2003 for $69.45 million to renovate and modernize school facilities.
Fifteen years is a long time to go without substantial capital investment, especially along the coast where, thanks to the salt air, buildings and the systems that serve them don’t last as long as they might farther inland.
It’s a pretty safe bet also that the district needs to do a lot of the same things other school systems across the county are having to spend capital to do — improve telecommunication infrastructure and improve security, to name a couple.
At the same time, district leaders should keep in mind the failed 2010 bond referendum for $35 million that would have included a sports complex to replace Kermit Courville Stadium.
Debate about that was incendiary, divisive and poisoned the water for a long time. This second bond issue needs to be well crafted and free of anything that seems frivolous or is highly controversial in other ways.
• Michael A. Smith