Voters will head to the polls on May 1 to decide whether two Wichita Falls ISD high schools slated for construction will have sports and recreation facilities.
Early in-person voting for the proposed $13.585 million facility bond will take place April 19-27.
The build-up to the district’s second bond election in as many years has been quieter than the build-up to the 2020 bond election. In last year’s referendum, voters approved a school bond proposal , but rejected one for sports facilities.
WFISD Superintendent Mike Kuhrt told administrators at a school board meeting Monday night that a video was in the works to educate the public about the athletic facility bonding measure.
Preparing for the election has been difficult lately due to extreme winter weather and spring break, Kuhrt said.
“But we feel we are on the right path to where we want to be,” he said. “Early voting doesn’t start for several weeks, so that’s when we want people to have the information.”
He said the district will have a 2021 bond website to inform voters, and that the bond website 2020 will remain active.
The last day to register to vote in the election is April 1. The last day to request an absentee ballot is April 20. The application must be received – unpostmarked – by then.
Mail-in ballots must be received no later than 7 p.m. on May 1, unless a later deadline applies.
WFISD voters might get a sense of deja vu as they vote again on a $13.585 million bond measure for the two high schools’ athletic and recreation facilities.
Voters rejected it in the Nov. 3 election when they approved a $276.415 million bond proposal to build the schools. The new schools are expected to open in the fall of 2024.
According to the law, the measure for sports facilities had to be the subject of a separate obligation proposal.
This time, WFISD officials are offering competition-level playing fields, and the district will contribute $4 million from its rainy day fund to make it happen.
If the bond is approved, the new high schools will have facilities, for example, to hold competitions in baseball, softball, track and field and possibly junior college football, Kuhrt said.
“We will have lights, dashboards and sound systems,” he said. “So that makes them competition grounds versus just training facilities.”
Each high school will have a stadium that can accommodate about 750 people, Kuhrt said.
He said sports facilities are a part of virtually every high school in Texas.
Without them, the district will end up ferrying students to other campuses, creating additional expense, Kuhrt said.
The 2020 bond brings an estimated increase of 30.5 cents per $100 of property valuation to WFISD ratepayer bills.
If voters approve the May Day bond measure, property taxes will rise by about 1.5 cents for a total increase of 32 cents.
Ahead of the bond elections, WFISD officials expect to hold groundbreaking ceremonies in April for the construction of high schools, Kuhrt said.
One of the new high schools will be built in southeast Wichita Falls at Windthorst Road and Henry S. Grace Freeway near the Career Education Center.
The other will be built in the southwest part of the city at 6422 Seymour Highway.
Kuhrt said the district sold bonds to build the new high schools just before spring break.
The district received a 2.25% interest rate on the 30-year bond, which saved WFISD more than $700,000 over projections, Kuhrt said.
“We are very excited about these rates,” he said.
On Monday, a PAC that backed the bond package last year showed signs of renewed activity.
Building the Future of the Falls Facebook Page launched its first post on Monday since a Nov. 5 update celebrating the passing of the link to build schools.
The PAC urges Wichitans to vote for the “May 2021 Bond: The final piece”.
“The children and athletes in our group need places on their school grounds to train and perform,” the group’s message reads. “Without them, students would have to be transported to other places that currently have these facilities, which costs time and money.”
Trish Choate, business watch reporter for the Times Record News, covers education, courts, breaking news, politics and more. Contact Trish with topical advice at [email protected] Her Twitter account is @Trishapedia.