On Saturday, voters in Robstown will go to the polls for what may be the last opportunity to vote to construct a new school at a discount.
On the ballot is a $12.4 million bond proposal to construct a new "Super-Elementary" that would combine Hattie Martin and Salazar Elementary into one school.
It is necessary that the bond be passed so the district may file for state assistance through the Instructional Facilities Allottment, or IFA.
If the bond is approved, the district will apply for IFA funding that would pay an estimated 66 percent, or $8.18 million of the $12.4 million bond, with the district paying the remainder over a 30-year period.
While the assistance from the state is significant, there will be a tax increase for most in Robstown.
To pay for its portion of the cost of the new school, the district would be required to raise its tax rate by an estimated $0.0775 per $100 valuation.
With the tax increase, the owner of a home valued at $50,000 would pay an additional $38.75 per year, or $3.23 per month. The owner of a $70,000 home would pay an additional $54.25 per year, or $4.52 per month.
There is some good news. A homestead exemption of $15,000 will be available from the district to qualified homeowners, and taxpayers over the age of 65 would not be levied a tax increase on their home property.
It's no secret that I've taken issue with many actions of this school board over the past couple of years, but in this case I support their unanimous decision to call for a bond election.
Funding such as IFA is vital to a community like Robstown, which would be hard pressed to completely pay for a new school on its own.
And a new school is certainly needed. I have spoken with staff at Hattie Martin and have walked the halls myself. The reports of cracks, leaks and aging infrastructure are not exaggerated.
I also support the construction of a new school for another reason - the consolidation aspect.
Over the past few years, Robstown has been consistently hurt in state reports because it has too many campuses for a district with its student population.
Consolidating Hattie Martin and Salazar will be a step in the right direction for a district that has lost more than 1,000 students over the past 10 years.
I realize the district is just coming off the construction of Lotspeich and San Pedro Elementary Schools (with payments to follow for the next three decades), but this is a rare opportunity.
I think if any of us were given the chance to build a new home with someone else footing two-thirds of the bill, we would do what we could to make that happen. That's what's happening in this case.
There's also another reason to support the bond.
After years of division, animosity and open conflict, the board came together on this issue to vote unanimously. Make no mistake, all the bad blood that is usually on display has not gone away. But in this case, they were able to work together. That's not insignificant.
As I said earlier, the cost of the bond for the average homeowner will be $3.23 a month. I think sending a message to this board that the community likes it when they set aside their differences and work together is worth a couple of bucks a month on its own. When you add a new school to the mix - well, that's even better.
When you look at all the benefits - a new school, lowered operating expenses, better state ratings - it's just a sound investment.
Vote "Yes" for the bond on Saturday.
Christopher Maher is the Managing Editor for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him at 387-4511.