Money to burn
Armed with tens of thousands of dollars from land sales, the school board has decided to go shopping for wide variety of items, from new desks for students to re-surfacing work on the running track and tennis courts.
The Port Aransas Independent School District Board of Trustees voted on Thursday, Jan. 18, to have Superintendent Billy Wiggins seek out specific prices for a laundry list of new items.
Inspiration for the new purchases was spurred by the district's sale last year of 33 acres of land in the undeveloped area on the west side of town known as Charlie's Pasture. The district sold the land to the City of Port Aransas for $380,000 for the city'planned nature preserve in that area.
The district already has taken advantage of the windfall by spending $23,500 on an electronic marquee.
At the request of trustees, Wiggins over the course of the past few weeks surveyed teachers, administrators and other employees throughout the district to develop a "priority needs list" to help the school board decide what other the kinds of items the district needs most to buy with money from the land sale.
Trustees received the list Jan. 18 and, after discussion, voted 7-0 to have Wiggins seek specific prices for:
+ Technology consisting of 18 LCD projectors, 15 projector screens and 10 supplemental audio systems, all used for making classroom presentations. Estimated price: $39,540.
+ Two hundred adult-size chairs. Estimate: $5,000.
+ Twelve dry-erase boards for Port Aransas High School. Estimate: $9,000.
+ Books for the H.G. Olsen Elementary School library. Estimate: $8,000.
+ Brundrett Middle School library books. Estimate: $4,000.
+ Thirty student desks, 50 deskchair combinations and 100 large student chairs for H.G. Olsen Elementary School. Estimate: $7,350.
+ Fifty desk-chair combinations for the middle school. Estimate: $3,500.
+ A video camera and stage props for the PAHS theater department. Estimate: $3,500.
+ Resurfacing of the tennis courts. Estimates of $19,420 and $20,797.
+ Resurfacing of the running track. Estimates of $25,000, $33,350 and $46,550. (Likely will have to go out for competitive bidding.)
+ A portable sound system for the middle school. Estimate: $1,500.
+ An ice machine for the middle school gym: $750.
+ A car to be used for general school purposes. Estimate: $15,000.
(Wiggins said actual prices of the above items probably will be lower in most cases than the estimates.)
Wiggins also had a security fence for H.G. Olsen Elementary School at the top of the list, but trustees decided for the moment against going ahead with that. Estimated costs were $47,036 and $35,663 with variations in cost depending on fence styles and which companies would be providing them.
The elementary school campus currently is unfenced. Wiggins said a fence would provide better security for the campus, funneling visitors past one location: the principal's office.
But trustees could not immediately agree on the need for a fence.
School board President Bob Smith seemed to lean in support of a fence. "Safety has to come first," Smith said. "What would we say to the community if we had an incident like some of these other districts have had?"
But Trustee Lorraine Stern had another take.
"I don't want to believe we need security fencing," said Stern. She said maintenance could be a problem. Also, she said, "I don't like the look of it, and I don't care for the message it sends." But Stern added that she would not rule out the possibility that she might change her position.
Trustee Ken Dunton said the district possibly should use cameras and key cards as security measures instead of a fence.
"Do we want to use a 1960s solution to solve a 21st Century problem?" Dunton said.
In an interview a few days after the meeting, Smith said, "We are looking at the security issue. We know safety comes first for the district, but we also have a fiduciary responsibility when we're looking at spending $30,000 or $40,000. So, before we approve this, we need to look at all aspects of the security issue."
Second on the priority needs list was a new phone system for the entire school district. Wiggins presented information on a phone system with an estimated price tag of $38,672.22, but trustees balked.
Stern said she had questions about a new system. Trustee Margaret Price said she worried about the cost and how long the system would last.
Smith said the security and phone system options are not dead in the water. He said he hopes to see a variety of additional options for security and a phone system presented by Wiggins at a special meeting to be held sometime before the next regular board meeting scheduled for Feb. 8. Smith said he expects the board to make a decision then on which options to go with on the phone system and security questions in addition to the other items on the priority needs list. (No date had been scheduled for the special meeting as of press time on Wednesday, Jan. 24.)
At the bottom of the priority needs list was a new bus, estimated to cost $100,000 to $105,000. Trustees expressed little interest in the idea. Smith said consideration of that option has been postponed indefi- nitely.