Only 15 people attended by The Mirror's count--including the school superintendent, his secretary, two school board members, the high school principal, a reporter and an infant.
However, after the meeting, School Supt. Rick Albritton said the video he showed of school board President Jeff Rash explaining the bond issue proposal had already been presented to several hundred persons--and that probably 200 more are scheduled to witness it elsewhere, such as meetings of the local Kiwanis, Rotary, and FFA groups. (In introducing the recording Monday night, he quipped, "This makes my 19th time to watch this, so if I fall asleep. . .").
The video is also on the Internet at the school's website (www.gilmerisd.org) and on YouTube. In addition, DVD copies are available free from the school office at 500 S. Trinity.
The proposed $36,210,000 bond issue includes three propositions on the ballot: (1) a new high school, and renovating the vocational building on the high school campus to house the school administration; (2) new classrooms at Bruce Junior High School, along with additional parking at the elementary and intermediate campuses; and (3) a multipurpose facility at the high school which would not be approved unless voters approve the new high school in proposition one.
The multipurpose building could be used for extracurricular activities and practice in bad weather, as well as for such events as health fairs and career days, GISD said.
The three proposals would trigger a 25.35-cent property tax increase if all pass, raising the school's tax rate from the current $1.18 1/2 cents per $100 valuation. Taxes on a $100,000 home would rise $215.45 while taxes on a $50,000 home would increase $88.71 annually, the video presentation showed. (However, taxes on homesteads for those age 65 or over are frozen at current levels if owners don't improve the house or move elsewhere.)
By far the main item in the package is the new high school/vocational building renovation, estimated to cost more than $30 million. Albritton acknowledged at Monday's gathering that this amount "sounds like a lot," and that some people condemn the price as "crazy." But he said that figure included furniture, equipment, fees, and "up-to-date technology," as well as funds for demolishing the current high school to create a parking lot.
He also said Spring Hill ISD had constructed a $28 million high school two years ago that is smaller than the one proposed here.
In addition, the superintendent said "a lot of money" would be required to renovate the current high school, part of which was built in 1950, in order to repair the roof, air conditioning system, and electrical system. And after that, Albritton said, "(We'd) still (be) in an old building with a shortened life term."
One man attending the hearing said renovation costs would escalate to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The school has cited concern not only over the items Albritton mentioned, but over supposedly inadequate science facilities, what Rash says are overly small classrooms, and purportedly inadequate bathrooms.
(During the hearing, high school Principal Greg Watson showed The Mirror's representative a video on Watson's cell phone of water from the leaking roof pouring into a bucket in a school hallway.) And in response to one man's question about whether students complained about the bathrooms, he said, "Yes. Absolutely."
Rash said after the video of him had ended that there were not enough stalls in the boys' bathroom.
One man at Monday's gathering asked the timetable for construction. Albritton said planning would take nine months before construction probably starts late next summer, and that the new high school would be occupied in 2016 somewhere on the current campus (the old building would be used until the new one is completed).
The multi-purpose facilty would be located behind the high school's practice fields. Meantime, an architect is expected to submit a sketch of the proposed new high school any day, said Albritton.
When The Mirror asked Albritton and the two school board members present at the hearing, Rash and Mike Tackett, what kind of feedback they were getting from the public concerning the bond issue reception, all indicated it was at least somewhat positive or mixed. The proposal has drawn no visible organized public opposition, although it has come under fire from some persons on the social medium Facebook.
Albritton said that while "I've had a mixed bag of comments," that "there's been nobody angry about this. People ask questions. . .Everybody is very open-minded."
Rash said "the response that I've gotten has been overwhelmingly supportive," including text messages and email. Tackett meantime said "I've had many folks" note the need for a new high school, although he heard concern about the multipurpose facility.
Rash said that proposed facility is a "want" as opposed to a "need." He pointed out that even if voters approve it, but reject the new high school, the multipurpose facility would not be constructed.
More town hall meetings allowing citizens to watch the video and ask questions on the bond issue are scheduled Oct. 10 and 22. More details will be published in upcoming editions of The Mirror.