HPISD Community Advisory Committee Recommends Bond

HPISD’s community advisory committee has recommended the Board of Trustees consider a $130 million to $140 million bond package to address capital improvement needs and make more funds available for teacher salaries.

“Our community is a unique, world class community that deserves world class educators and world class facilities, and you have to have the bank account to be able to do that,” Committee Chair Michael Denton Jr. told the board at the committee’s final meeting on April 9.

The advisory committee has grappled with cataloguing and prioritizing a long list of district and campus needs over the course of six meetings that began in February. 

Increasing teacher salaries was a priority for committee members. Currently, salaries in HPISD rank between 7th and 24th out of 25 comparison districts, depending on experience and whether a teacher has a master’s degree.

Although bond funds cannot be used to pay salaries, some capital expenses could be moved from the district’s maintenance and operations fund, which is used for daily expenses, to a bond package, freeing up money to raise salaries.

“We can have the nicest facilities, but if we are not teaching our children well with very highly paid teachers, then it’s kind of all for nothing,” past-PTA president Jane Wallingford said while discussing priorities at the committee’s April 4 meeting. “As a parent of very young kids in this district, that is so important to me.”

The committee also emphasized the importance of over $35 million of district-wide security upgrades and immediate maintenance needs at the HPISD’s oldest campuses, including repairs to the HPMS/MIS chiller piping system, which has failed several times in the past few years.

Another high priority was allocating $37.5 million for a potential property acquisition east of Highland Park High School adjacent to land the district already owns. Purchasing the property, assistant superintendent for business services Scott Drillette explained, would give the district opportunities to improve its athletic, art, and academic facilities in the future.

“Our footprint, acreage is just so small compared to other school districts,” Drillette said after the meeting. “In order for us to be able to provide the facilities that allow us to be competitive, we have to have the property to do so.”

The bond package recommended by the committee would not increase the community’s tax rate, Denton told the board. Bond funds would not be subject to recapture, and all money raised through a bond would remain in the district.

“This process has been incredibly helpful for the board members who will be making the ultimate decision of what goes into the bond package if we choose to call for a bond,” Board president Maryjane Bonfield told the committee, “and knowing your thoughts on specific items that we’ve considered is going to be directive to us and weigh heavily as we make that final decision.”

The Board of Trustees has until August 19 to decide whether to call for a November bond election. Click HERE to visit HPISD’s Community Advisory Committee webpage.

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