The Board of the Port Arthur Independent School District recently voted to call an election to approve the sale of bonds for replacing old outdated facilities and other needed capital improvements district wide.
Earlier this year Port Arthur Independent School District Superintendent, Mark Porterie, asked the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce to study the unmet needs of the district and to help evaluate our community’s ability to repay any new indebtedness without a corresponding tax increase. The Chamber then assembled a task force consisting of representatives from area industry and small business concerns from all areas of Port Arthur to address Dr. Porterie’s request.
The Chamber Task Force found that our older buildings were not energy efficient and not designed to accept new technology necessary in preparing the students of today for tomorrow’s jobs. We also recognized the addition of portable classrooms created an unsafe environment for our students and overloads the bathrooms, lunchrooms and support services for older buildings. Where there are portable classrooms the young students must walk from these buildings, across open unsecured areas to permanent buildings to use the bathroom, go to lunch; and go to the counselor’s or principal’s office. This creates the need to send two or more children at once for safety purposes. In the recent ice storms walking between these classrooms was dangerous for students and teachers.
With an eye toward the recent reductions in assessed values, the Chamber asked what effect any additional reductions would have on the district’s ability to repay the proposed indebtedness. The projections provided by the districts bond counsel, RBC Capital Markets, demonstrated that while the amortization period for repayment of the bonds would necessarily require an extension, the bonds could be repaid without any increase in the actual tax rate.
Having already supported two substantial bond issues the Chamber was keenly interested in how long this proposed plan of improvements would meet our community’s needs before we were again asked to fund additional school district facility needs. While the district was not able to fully predict the future, they did say with all things being equal, that this latest bond issue would meet our districts infrastructure needs for at least ten years.
The Chamber understands that new buildings and higher salaries do not insure better educated students. We understand that while costs have gone up academic ratings have declined. To deny our students the best facilities that we as a community can afford would be punishing them for something that is not entirely their fault.
The continued economic development of Port Arthur depends on an educated workforce. A poorly run and poorly maintained school system directly affects the ability to sell homes, attract businesses and the overall impression people have of our city.
When approved, the bonds would allow PAISD to accomplish the following:
1. Eliminate all classrooms being housed in temporary or portable buildings on PAISD campuses.
2. Provide a site for the district’s at-risk students and students that need to be separated from other students due to behavior, attendance, etc.
3. Provide security improvements throughout the district to further protect the safety of our children.
4. Provide technology infrastructure upgrades to buildings throughout the district to promote efficiency and greater educational opportunities for our students.
5. Provide upgrades to buildings throughout the district to make the buildings more energy efficient and help to lower maintenance costs.
6. Build a new 9th Grade Center which will be located closer to Memorial High School enabling 9th graders to be better integrated into the high school and student activities and programs.
7. Improve and enhance existing facilities and buildings in the district to further promote utilization, safety, efficiency and enhanced educational programs, career training and extra-curricular activities.
8. Upgrade the district's school transportation system to ensure the safety of students while being transported to and from school and associated events; i.e. sports, band competition, plays, etc.
For these reasons on August 28, 2014 the Directors of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution supporting and encouraging the passage of the PAISD Bond Issue.