Calallen school district voters overwhelmingly supported two bonds last week that school officials said will enable district-wide improvements in academic and athletic areas.
The first proposition to issue $43,665,000 million of bonds passed with 66.76 percent voter support as 986 voters were in favor of the bond, while 491 voted against it.
A second Calallen bond called by the school board to refinance $450,000 of existing debt also passed easily, with 65.34 percent voter support, as 939 voters voted for the second proposition and 498 voted against it.
"We're very excited. Now the real work begins," said Superintendent Arturo Almendarez. "I happen to be a person that always worries, but I'm very grateful for the support that was shown by the community. Now we have to deliver and we have to do what we said we were going to do in a timely manner and do it as efficiently as possible."
Despite the large bonds on the ballot, voter turnout was 9.62 percent in the Calallen school district. Overall voter turnout in Nueces County was 6.47 percent, and voter turnout statewide was 8.65 percent, said the secretary of state's office.
School board races that were scheduled this year for the Calallen and Tuloso-Midway school districts were rescheduled to November 2008 because of a recent state law.
"It's a shame that those numbers are so low," Almendarez said of voter turnout. "I think one of the things is there were no people on the ballots, it was all propositions. That's just my opinion, but I think that's what happened. But it's a shame people don't vote in all elections."
Proposition 1 asked Calallen Independent School District voters to approve "The issuance of $43,665,000 of bonds for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, equipping and renovating school facilities in the district, and levying the tax in payment thereof."
Proposition 2 asked voters to approve "The issuance of $450,000 of bonds to refund the district's existing tax and revenue notes, series 2002, and levying the tax in payment thereof."
The Calallen school board voted unanimously at a special meeting Aug. 27 to have both propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot. Almendarez said the proposed bonds were a result of strategic planning that began in August 2005 and has included numerous public meetings.
Almendarez said the $43,665,000 million approved in Proposition 1 will fund district-wide improvements in academic and athletic areas, including building a new Magee Intermediate School and renovating Wildcat Stadium.
Specifically, the bond provides $13.9 million to build a new Magee Intermediate School, $7.5 million for a new sixth-grade wing and science/computer center at Calallen Middle School, $3.5 million for district-wide technology improvements and $3.4 million for parking lots and road upgrades.
The bond funding also provides $2.9 million district activity/aquatic center, $2.8 million for remodeling and an addition to Wood River Elementary School, $2.6 million for an addition at East Elementary School, $2.025 million to demolish most of the existing Magee Intermediate School and convert the remainder of Magee into a support facility and new central kitchen, $1.5 million for a new agriculture facility at the high school, and $850,000 for technology improvements at the high school.
The proposition will also provide $550,000 to install synthetic grass at Wildcat Stadium, $500,000 to expand the visitor's side of the stadium, $500,000 for band hall improvements, $400,000 for baseball and softball field improvements, $400,000 for old gym improvements at the middle school, $120,000 to resurface the middle school track and $120,000 to upgrade the bus barn.
School officials said a larger visitor's area at Wildcat Stadium would attract more football playoff games, track and field events, soccer matches and band contests, bolstering area merchants and the Calallen Booster Club.
They said it would also provide enough seating so that people would not have to stand and watch football games from outside the fences.
Almendarez said installing synthetic grass would pay for itself over time through reduced maintenance costs. Board member Yolanda Villarreal said the turf is guaranteed for 10 years.
School officials said synthetic turf has been dramatically improved in the last 20 years to reduce the risk of injuries and they were not concerned the new surface would pose risks to student-athletes.
The second proposition approved last week will be utilized to refinance $450,000 of existing debt incurred in 2002 that is being currently paid back at the rate of $93,000 a year.
Almendarez said the last major bond for Calallen schools was called in the early 1980s and two smaller bonds were approved by voters in the 1990s. No new major facilities have been built in 25 years.
The bonds will increase property tax rates 17 to 19 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, depending on property value growth in the school district.
The district's current tax rate is $1.10 and will be $1.10 in 2008-09 and is projected to increase to $1.2992 in 2009-10, Almendarez said.
Seniors 65 and older and disabled homeowners are eligible for exceptions to the tax rate increase.
Almendarez said the school district would likely begin receiving the funding in late February or March and it would take about three years to complete the projects, once they have been prioritized.
"We're hoping to do everything in two years, once we start," he said.