AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Friday’s special meeting of the Amarillo Independent School District’s Board of Trustee was an important one for Board President David Nance. 

After the meeting ended with the board calling a bond election for multiple improvements, Nance said that if the measures are approved, people will look back on the meeting that occurred on Feb. 18, 2022, understanding that the board took a necessary measure for the growth of the district as a whole, with officials continuing to give students worthwhile opportunities on the academic side of things and on the extracurricular side of things. 

“It’s about the future of Amarillo. It’s about the future of our students. Certainly, I believe in AISD. I believe in the work that this team has done,” Nance said after Friday’s special meeting. “This team has done a marvelous job of taking care of those structures. So really, it’s just our time to continue to reinvest and the opportunities that we provide for our AISD students.” 

During Friday’s special meeting, the board took action to call a bond election on May 7 surrounding four propositions which approximately costs a combined $286 million. Three of the propositions were previously debated and discussed at length over the course of multiple meetings. 

This comes after a recommendation was presented to the board by the district’s Community Facilities Advisory Committee during a Feb. 10 special meeting. The board then hosted an additional meeting on Feb. 14 to discuss the potential of a bond election. 

What will be on the ballot? 

The four propositions that will be on the May ballot for Amarillo ISD residents are: 

  • Bond Proposition A: $180.6 million
    • Austin Middle School Replacement – $65.7 million;
    • Roof Replacement – $40 million;
    • Exterior Lighting for Athletic Fields – $3.2 million;
    • Fine Arts Additions/Renovations – $44 million;
      • High Schools – $37 million;
      • Middle Schools – $7 million;
    • Elementary/Middle School Gym AC – $6.6 million;
    • Middle School Secured Entrances – $7.5 million;
    • Elementary Perimeter Fencing – $2 million;
    • Window Replacement at 12 schools – $6 million; 
    • Update technology network cabling on campuses – $5.6 million. 
  • Bond Proposition B– $19 million
    • Stands replacement and an eight-lane track at Dick Bivins Stadium – $19 million.
  • Bond Proposition C– $38.3 million
    • New Natatorium, including a 50m pool with a diving well – $38.3 million.
  • Bond Proposition D– $48 million
    • Multipurpose practice facilities for the district’s four high schools – $48 million.

How much could these propositions impact my taxes if passed? 

The potential tax impact on a residential home if each proposition passed, or if all the propositions passed:

  • If Proposition A passes, the average homeowner will pay an additional $8.54 per month or  $102.48 annually;
  • If Proposition B passes, the average homeowner will pay an additional $0.89 per month or $10.68 annually;
  • If Proposition C passes, the average homeowner will pay an additional $1.82 per month or $21.84 annually;
  • If Proposition D passes, the average homeowner will pay an additional $2.29 per month or $27.48 annually;
  • If all propositions pass, the average homeowner will pay an additional $13.54 per month or $162.48 annually. 

Officials state that the potential tax impact figures are based upon two things:

  • The 2021 average appraised home value in the district, which is $165,000; 
  • The passage of Proposition Two on the Texas Constitutional Amendments portion of the May 2022 election.

Officials with the district said that the property taxes for residents who are 65 years of age or older with a homestead exemption are frozen and would not be affected by the bond.

What happened during Friday’s special meeting? 

During the public comment portion of the meeting, James Schenck, an Amarillo resident who frequents Amarillo City Council meetings, reiterated his belief that the board is rushing the bond onto the May ballot. Schenck, who also spoke during the Feb. 14 special meeting, claims that the majority of the citizens within Amarillo do not know what the board was talking about, encouraging the board to wait until November to put the propositions up to vote. 

“If you wait until November, it gives you time, it gives us time to review what you’re talking about,” he said. “If you put it on the May ballot, you’re actually looking at giving us an ultimatum of either up or down and then you try and sell it to us from now until May.” 

Tom Scherlen, another member of the Amarillo community, also encouraged the board to wait until the economy turns around to ask residents to vote on these propositions. He said it appears that the board had a knee-jerk reaction to the Community Facilities Advisory Committee’s recommendations. 

After the meeting, Nance told that the process surrounding this facilities study has occurred since June, with the advisory committee coming together in late 2021. 

“Those recommendations were made known to us here within the last six weeks. So, the board has been very deliberate and thoughtful regarding those recommendations,” Nance said. “So really, it wasn’t necessarily a push, though our timeline was today. There has been a thoughtful consideration, really for eight or nine months, what our future needs for our school district might day.” 

As the board moved from public comment, the board went through each proposition individually, with the board asking numerous questions surrounding what each proposition would bring to the district in-depth. 

To start, Amarillo ISD Superintendent Doug Loomis said as he looked at the proposals from the committee, proposition A is critical to the district moving forward, with more than $105 million tied up in the replacement of Austin Middle School and roof replacements throughout the district.

“As you think about these propositions from the staff’s point of view, from my point of view, proposition A is one of those about us being good stewards,” Loomis said during the meeting. “The other… propositions may be able to be encompassed around wants instead of needs. My ask to you as a board that I trust implicitly, proposition A is a vital need for this district and for the kids in this district.” 

As the conversation surrounding proposition A continued, Board Member Don Powell added an additional item to the proposition, requesting that $5.6 million to update technology network cabling on campuses be included in the measure. Nance said this was a necessary addition that came from Jeff Roller, the district’s chief technology officer, which would help with overall technology safety as well as the district’s continuance of technological services. 

“From a technology standpoint, it’s going to be pay me now, or pay me later,” Nance said. “(Roller) felt like from a security standpoint, as well as a functionality standpoint for the educational opportunities for our students, since everything is moving to a Chromebook or a technology-based learning environment, that it would be a good add for that condition.” 

Officials then spoke about the immediate needs for improvements at Dick Bivins Stadium, which encompassed the $19 million in proposition B. This would upgrade seats at the stadium and add two additional lanes on its track. Officials said that there were some structural issues under the stands, which would be fixed if the bond passed. 

Proposition C was the last official recommendation from the district’s committee, which if passed would give the district the ability to construct a natatorium for students and the various swim programs throughout the district. However, Loomis said that it is expected to cost $1-1.5 million in operating costs from the district, which the budget could not provide as of this year. Discussions have occurred where the district is exploring a public/private partnership for the facility, finding a way to help secure those operating funds for the facility prior to selling the bonds. 

“These bonds would be specifically for a Natatorium,” Loomis said. “It’s not like you could shift those… We just wouldn’t sell those bonds.” 

If the bond is passed, a tax increase surrounding the Natatorium would not take place until the bonds are sold. Loomis stressed the bonds would not be sold until there is a measure in place where the district could fund the operating cost of the facility through a partnership or other funding mechanism. 

The votes calling the bond election were unanimous for propositions A, B and C. However, towards the end of the meeting, Powell made a motion to add an additional proposition to be considered, one that would establish the construction of an indoor multipurpose practice facility at each of the four high schools. This proposition D vote was passed with a 4-2 vote, with Nance and Board Member Kimberly Anderson voting against the measure. 

Dick Ford, a member of the district’s board, said that this measure was originally presented as a part of proposition A to members of the committee and was not presented as its own option, something which he said there is a large consensus for. 

“I think that we have the obligation, we should allow the taxpayers the opportunity to decide whether we have this or not and not us,” he said. 

Anderson said she could not get behind this proposition, with it not being one of the propositions recommended to the board by the community committee. She also said that there were additional operating costs that could be added to these facilities. 

“We had a committee of over 30 people come together and say these are the three propositions and there was a reason,” she said. “I just feel really confident that that committee, if they had really wanted those on this election, they would have said, ‘hey, is there a way?’” 

But ultimately, the choice on whether or not to pass these four bond proposals is up to the Amarillo ISD voters, Nance said.

“Really, we’ll leave that in the hands of the voters and certainly see how important every one of these propositions might be,” Nance said. “We look forward to taking the message of the needs and really (showcasing the outstanding) work that AISD does with the facilities that we have. We look forward to taking that to the voters in the short term.” 

What’s Next? 

After Friday’s meeting, Nance said the district will take the information officials have received for the last eight to nine months, condense it into a format that is easy for a taxpayer to understand and communicate to the community the importance of these four propositions until the May 7 election. 

“I encourage every voter to vote their conscience,” Nance said. “Obviously, we’re going to do our due diligence and get the information to the voter and give them the reasons why we should believe that they should support those bonds. That will be our opportunity to share the needs and the reasons why these bonds are on a May election.” 

For more information about the 2022 Bond Proposals, visit the Amarillo ISD website.