Voters have been turning out in higher than normal turnout at the polls to mark their ballot on the proposed $25 million bond election for the Bridge City Independent School District.

Early voting began continues through Oct. 31, followed by election day on November 4th. 

The proposed bond is a result of nearly two years of discussions by administrators, directors and community members. Following the creation of the Community Facility Committee, the needs of the district began to come to the surface. The committee began by taking tours of the facilities, holding meetings, leading community meetings and by creating community surveys. 

If passed, the  $25 million bond will enable the district to build the Cardinal Complex and make needed repairs on existing issues. 

Currently, the high school does not have a regulation stage or practice facility for Theater Arts. There is not a facility that is designed for concerts, theater and dance performances. 

The Cardinal Complex is planned to be a 28,000 square foot building. The building would include a lobby, restrooms, mechanical rooms, concession, auditorium, stage, back stage and dressing room. The project is slated to be 22 percent of the total amount which is $5.5 million. As a result of the high ceilings in the auditorium the projected costs are higher per square foot. 

The theater, band, dance, choir practice and classroom areas are 29,000 square feet. The costs is  projected to be 21 percent of the total bond amount or $5.25 million.  The athletic area of the Cardinal Complex is 27,000 square feet and is projected to be 20 percent of the total bond amount or $5 million.

In addition, there will be seven additional classrooms are 11,500 square feet. This is projected to be nine percent of the total bond amount or $2.25 million. The renovations at the baseball/softball complex will be six percent or $1.4 million.

‘I see this as an opportunity to enhance the educational experience for the kids,” said Rick Dearing, chairman of the Cardinal Complex Bond Committee. “Extra curricular and co-curricular  activities help keep kids in school and enhance or promote academic performance.”

Currently, the high school choir has 95 students and no rehearsal space. In addition, there are not any nearby restroom facilities. Students have to walk from the choir hall to the main building to use the bathroom. Plus, drama students use the ‘cafetorium’ to perform. That stage is not a standard size and does not have proper lighting and the acoustics are bad. 

The high school has BCTV for students to produce a television show. But, the media students don’t have a studio or a space to edit the show. 

The Strutters have about 30 members on the drill team. They need a larger space for practicing and dressing. Currently, the 11th and 12th grade students use the hallway while the others use a small dressing room. But, that was said to actually be a benefit since the hall was much larger. 

The band is one of the fastest growing activities in the district. The band hall was originally built for 50 students. Currently, the program has 90 students. The program will  grow up to 175 students in 2015-16 school year. The band program now has 349 students in the sixth through 12th grades. 

As a result, the band does not have a place to practice, Dearing said. 

 In addition, art exhibitions from 120 students have to be set up in the hallways of the high school. The theater arts program has 130 students. 

“The programs have grown exponentially, but the facilities have remained the same,” Dearing said. 

Plus, there is a safety factor to consider. 

When the construction is complete, the buildings will be joined and what is currently a covered sidewalk will be an enclosed hallway. Therefore, they will not be exposed to the heat, cold or rainy weather. In addition, it will be a safer environment. 

On the minds of many has been the costs to the taxpayer and when they can expect to see the tax increase if the bond should pass. 

There is a projected 24 to 30 months from the time the bond passes and the bonds are sold as construction progresses. Therefore, the total tax rate of $0.19 will not be added until all the bonds are sold, according to information from BCISD.

In addition,  the average home in Bridge City is valued at $131,624, according to the Appraisal District. 

 Taxpayers would see an increase of $204.36 per year in their taxes. Over the life of the bond, they could expect to pay a total of $5,109. 

However, homeowners who are 65 years old or older and are at the their primary, homesteaded residence their taxes will not increase.  

Another thing on the minds of community members is the number of students attending BCISD. The enrollment in 1999 was two students higher than current numbers. But, since the decline, the numbers have slowly increased. During the 

2009-10 school year, there were 2,486 students. The following year the number increased by 102 students. In the 2011-12 school year there were 2,693 students and 2,764 in the 2012-13 school year. 

When comparing the numbers to 1999, the number of students may seem “flat”, Dearing said. 

“But it’s not,” he added. 

In  the younger grades such as Pre-K through third grade, the numbers have increased 28 percent. 

“We won’t have room for all these kids when they reach high school,” Dearing said. 

Voters will have the opportunity to voice their opinion on the matter by marking the ballot during early voting through the end of this week and on Nov. 4th. 

“Actually this is what we want,” Dearing said. “We want to do what the community wants.”