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Bond talks still on the table for PN-GISD

The idea to present a bond to build four new elementary schools and other necessities in the Port Neches-Groves Independent School District is not dead.

Now, the fate of a multi-million dollar bond proposition hinges on progress made during a major expansion at Total Petrochemicals.

But timing is everything.

The estimated cost of the expansion comes in at $2.4 billion and, once completed, would raise property values by $1.7 billion. That number drops somewhat when deductions for pollution control are added making for roughly a $1.4 billion taxable value.

“Not long after I arrived we realized we had some pretty significant facility needs specifically relating to our elementary schools, our alternative education building and the fact that our administrative team is spread out over three different locations,” Superintendent Rodney Cavness said.

A district facility committee, consisting of teachers, administrators, business people, senior citizens and moms and dads worked for eight months touring and assessing the buildings in question.

The goal, Cavness said, was to present a plan of action to the school board on how to address the facility needs and also use Gallagher Construction Services, which provides bond planning assistance in conjunction with a demography study by Bob Templeton.

In order to move forward the district must wait until Total’s property values are up.

“Two weeks ago Total made the announcement they are moving ahead with the expansion which is great news for the school district and for them,” he said. “The important thing to remember here, if we’re going to have a building project, it must be coordinated such that you don’t begin too quickly nor begin too late. It’s a timing issue. You can’t go out for a bond prior to the scheduled values being what they propose them to be.”

Cavness wants PN-GISD residents to know the district has not abandoned this project in any manner.

“We have simply been waiting patiently and optimistically for Total to go ahead on this expansion.”

According to projections, the value of the Total project should be at $179 million by Jan. 1, 2018. If this is the case and the value is at that specific point in the schedule, the board could choose to call for a May bond issue in February 2018.

But if those values haven’t reached that specific point then the district will not go forward at that time.

“However, we are gong to have the chief appraiser come and take a look at the project in the late summer and if he believes that the stated values are going to rise to the appropriate level by January 2018, we have the fall semester to put the final touches on the building program,” he said. “There are still some unknowns out there. We are optimistic and we will know better in the summer what our schedule will look like. I have received a significant amount of input from the community on it and they are in favor of moving ahead with what the committee presented to the board.”

Construction prices have likely changed from the 2015 studies to today. The district has reached out again to Gallagher Construction who did a price comparison and believes the project will be approximately $10 million more, give or take a little.

Under the initial bond discussion it was determined that a homeowner with a $100,000 home would see an increase in property taxes of about $4 per month.

The bond proposition, as previously discussed, would include eight buildings, including two new elementary schools in Groves and two new elementary schools in Port Neches — both to house prekindergarten through fifth grades.

The Van Buren and Taft school names would be retained as well as Ridgewood and Woodcrest.

“And we will make every effort to keep the schools at their current locations, if at all possible, but get Taft out of Port Arthur,” he said.

In addition to this, the facility committee recommended the consolidation of the Port Neches administration building, West Groves administration building and the alternative education campus into one facility.

The last bond proposition approved by voters was in May 2007. The $123 million bond paid for renovations at the elementary schools, construction of two new middle schools, work at the high school and stadium renovations.

Reporter: Mary Meaux, 409-721-2429

Twitter: @MaryMeauxPANews