Marfa residents to vote on $57 million school bond this fall

The Marfa Independent School District says the bond proposal would mostly go toward building a new K-12 campus, the Big Bend Sentinel reports.

Outside the Marfa High School building in Marfa, Texas. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

By Travis Bubenik

This fall, as part of the November 8 midterm elections, Marfa residents will vote on a proposed $57 bond proposal for the local school district.

As the Big Bend Sentinel has reported, school officials say the bond – which local home and property owners would pay for through increased taxes – would mostly go to building a new K-12 campus.

For more on the proposal, Marfa Public Radio recently caught up with Big Bend Sentinel reporter Mary Cantrell, who’s been following the story.


Interview Highlights

On what exactly the $57 million would pay for

Almost all of the bond funding would go toward a new school building. Cantrell said school officials have argued that it makes financial sense to build a new campus because the current campus has a laundry list of costly repair needs.

“They’re dealing with a lot of different facilities that have varying needs, but they’re looking at some pretty heavy costs for HVAC, plumbing, roof repairs, leaking, just a lot of infrastructure issues,” she said. “And they’ve kind of come out and said, it’s probably just smarter from an economic standpoint to build a new campus altogether, instead of keeping up with these repairs.” 

Cantrell said school officials have also raised concerns about safety and security with the existing campus, as students currently have to travel between different buildings with many different entrances and exits. 

On the pushback the proposal’s already received

“You know, increasing property taxes is not something that anyone wants to hear, especially right now,” Cantrell said. “I think that [school officials] know this is a tough time to propose this.”

Still, Cantrell said officials have argued the new campus is needed, and that given inflation and the overall state of the economy, building and infrastructure costs are only likely to increase in the future.

“We’ve had some spicy letters to the editor on our opinion pages, and I know that the superintendent’s getting a lot of visitors,” Cantrell said.

On how the bond proposal amount stacks up against similar proposals in the area

Cantrell has looked into other school bond proposals in Far West Texas and found that the proposals have varied by district.

“In Alpine, they passed a bond a couple years ago to build a new high school campus that was around $22.5 million,” she said. “Balmorhea also had a bond recently for a new K-12 campus, similar to Marfa, but they were also building a new football field and other things, and their bond was $75 million.”

Cantrell said Marfa school officials have based their estimates on how much the overall bond plan would cost by calculating a price per square foot.

“They’re estimating around $410 to $490 per square foot for this new K-12 campus,” she said. “It all kind of comes down to what are construction costs and what makes sense, and nothing’s cheap right now.”

On Marfa’s declining school enrollment numbers

According to Cantrell, those concerned with the bond proposal have taken issue with the idea of the district building a new campus as its student enrollment numbers continue to decline.

District officials, she said, see the potential for a new, nicer campus as a solution to the declining enrollment.

“I don’t think they’re anticipating their enrollment getting a lot bigger because of this,” she said. “They’re not being unrealistic and expecting hundreds of students to come, but they do think it’s going to attract more students if they have nicer facilities, newer classrooms. And that might also help attract more teachers.”

About Travis Bubenik

All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter
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