Support our children and teachers: vote to equip excellence in our schools

By Ken Hutchenrider
Chairman, Richardson Chamber of Commerce
President of Methodist Richardson Medical Center

Outstanding public schools drive the future of growing and vibrant communities, and the Richardson Chamber of Commerce is proud to endorse the RISD Bond 2016 as a critical step in the growth of our community and its workforce.

The evidence is clear that exceptional schools attract and keep great employers and great families, and failing schools tend to repel both. In fact, we are fortunate that the Richardson ISD is considered a “destination district,” one so strong that the RISD reputation is a top consideration when families are choosing which community to make their home.

The $437.1 million bond proposal is absolutely necessary to keep RISD among the best in the area and provide tools and facilities to meet the demands of producing an exceptional 21st century workforce. If the bond proposal passes, the district’s tax levy would remain the third lowest in Dallas and Collin counties. If approved, the bond package would increase the debt service tax rate by a maximum of 8 cents. That translates to about $ 138.95 per year ($11.58 per month) for an average valued home in the Richardson ISD of $220,758.

The size of the bond issue and its priorities were set after months of public input received by staff and the trustees. The bond proceeds will directly benefit each of the nearly 39,000 students in the district and all 55 campuses.

This election is only about capital expenditures – items that have a useful life of a year or more. Further, the term of the bonds – the length of time items will be financed – will depend on the life expectancy of the item being financed. In other words, items like computers that have a short technical lifespan, would be financed with short term bonds. New buildings, expansions and heating/air conditioning, could be financed with longer term bonds.

The expenditures can be broken down into three large categories:

Maintenance of existing infrastructure, technology and equipment: $215.71 million

This category includes foundational items that keep staff and students comfortable and safe. This would include cameras, alarms and fire protection upgrades. Also included are new roofs, HVAC units, computers and other equipment for instructional and extracurricular activities.

Construction, capacity and renovation - $107.27 million

Demographers are predicting growth of 2,300 students over the next five years. This money would accommodate this growth and address outdated design. Specifically, $59.74 million would construct 24 classrooms at Lake Highlands High School, 21 classrooms at Richardson High School and redesign and renovate three 1970s elementary schools: Aikin, Prestonwood and Yale. Another $47.53 million would house the enrollment increases. Possibilities could include purchase of land, a new Lake Highlands-area elementary school, construction of new classrooms and purchase of portable classrooms.

(Note to Lake Highlands residents: your community has a citizen reflector group working to present recommendations to the Board of Trustees to ease the crowding from growth.)

Enrichments - $114.1 million

Enrichments include construction or equipment to elevate the teaching and learning experience:

·         A multipurpose activity center at each high school ($59.98 million). These facilities will support sports, band, drill team and other extracurricular activities. Our numerous student groups will be able to practice in all conditions; during the 2014-15 school year our athletic groups alone missed more than 160  practices because of inclement weather.

·         Technology enhancements for classrooms ($19.42 million). The district would be able to put an age-appropriate electronic device suited for the curriculum into the hands of every student during school hours.

·         School libraries would evolve into more flexible learning environments ($17.19 million), mirroring some of the most current flexible work environments of the corporate world.

·         More career technology and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs at each high school ($9.88 million). The district’s popular Career and Technical Education courses would receive additional equipment and space, helping more students like those who study at Methodist Richardson Medical Center enter the workforce ready to contribute from the first day on the job.

We have been served well by leaders - both staff and elected trustees - who listened to citizens and struck a responsible balance between our community’s needs and sound stewardship of our resources.

Let’s follow their lead and equip our students and educators with the tools they need to continue providing excellence in education to our children and future workforce. Vote YES for Richardson ISD Bond 2016!

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