Trustees continue discussions towards bond vote

SubmittedHuntsville ISD Superintendent Dr. Scott Sheppard presented the proposed Athletics Master Plan on Thursday. The plan includes $30-35 million in athletics upgrades, with a new 7,000-seat football stadium, field house, parking lots, practice fields and tennis courts. 

A broad blueprint towards a maximum $127 million bond began to come into focus Thursday night for the Huntsville ISD Board of Trustees. 

During a special workshop, trustees received updates on bond propositions that would impact nearly every campus within the district. The project could be put before voters as soon as May 1.

According to Superintendent Dr. Scott Sheppard, the proposed propositions would realign grade levels, improve the instructional environment at all campuses and increase the funds available for teacher pay and student programs.

“Our realignment model has been proven to work,” Sheppard said. “It will have only two building transitions building transitions, which will in turn provide for a better academic environment for students and more convenience for parents. The renovations will also enhance teacher effectiveness and student academic achievement by improving the instructional spaces, safety and aesthetics.”

The realignment would virtually eliminate Huntsville Intermediate School and Gibbs Pre-K. Pre-K through fifth grades will be housed at four elementary school campuses — many of which will be expanded — and Mance Park Middle School will inherit sixth grade into its campus.

WHAT’S INCLUDED

Huntsville ISD’s enrollment has shown steady growth over the past few years and is expected to grow at a larger rate over the next decade. A large portion of the bond package — classroom additions at four campuses — will help deal with that growth.

The campus receiving the largest facelift will be Mance Park Middle School, as officials plan to convert the existing support and learning center wing into 16 additional classrooms. The plan also calls for converting the existing cafeteria and kitchen into a band suite, along with a new kitchen, cafeteria and stage and renovations to the existing gymnasium.

The existing auditorium at Mance Park, which was condemned nearly eight years ago, will be demolished and replaced with a new performing arts center at the high school.

Classrooms at Huntsville Intermediate School will be renovated, and the campus will be converted to Scott Johnson Elementary School. The existing Scott Johnson Elementary will be converted into a community center, while the existing Gibb’s Pre-K Center will become a new support and learning center.

The plan also includes the construction of a new baseball and softball complex near the high school.

ATHLETIC UPGRADES

Much of Thursday’s workshop included a new update to the Athletics Master Plan, which calls for the construction of a 7,000-seat football stadium, a new field house and the relocation/ upgrade of the current tennis complex.

Huntsville ISD is currently the largest school district in the Lone Star State without a varsity football stadium. The Hornets have rented Bowers Stadium on the Sam Houston State University campus for decades, a move that only two other districts in the state utilize.

The lack of a home stadium hit home for many in the community in 2020, when Huntsville ISD was forced to relocate their commencement ceremonies to Woodforest Bank Stadium in Shenandoah. The Hornet football team was also forced to host home football games at Madisonville High School.

With a price tag ranging from $30-35 million, district leaders are quick to point out that the stadium will impact hundreds of students across the campus.

“This stadium would impact a lot of children, from the drill team to cheer teams to band, track, football and soccer,” HISD Board President Trey Wharton said.

Due to rules set by the Texas legislature on capacity, Sheppard noted that the football stadium upgrades will have to be proposed on a separate ballot proposition.

WHAT’S THE COST

As with any bond election, many are quick to wonder … how much is this going to cost me?

Huntsville ISD voters have not supported a bond election in over 22 years, so the district is left with very little debt. The current tax rate of $1.0378 per $100 valuation includes 96.28 cents in maintenance and operations funds and 7.5 cents from the debt service rate.

Paul Brown, the district’s chief financial officer, said that the educational upgrades will cost taxpayers a maximum of 6 cents per $100 valuation in new debt service taxes. The athletic upgrades would cost an additional maximum tax of 4.86 cents.

He noted that taxpayers wouldn’t pay the maximum tax rate until at least 2024 and it would only last two or three years.

NEXT STEPS

The Huntsville ISD board is expected to make a decision on the athletics master plan at its next meeting on Jan. 21. That plan is not currently part of the long range master plan, and must be added before a vote is called.

Trustees must call for an election by Feb. 12 in order to be included on the May 1 ballot. 

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