On May 7, Bonham Independent School District voters approved a bond proposal valued at about $30 million to construct a new high school campus. The vote passed 977-456 – a roughly two-to-one margin. As a result, property taxes will go up for homeowners aged 64 years and younger. For example, people owning a home valued at $90,000 would pay a little more than $150 in taxes annually. Homeowners 65 and older would be exempt under the state homestead exemption.
Marvin Beaty: They would take a golf ball or a bowling ball and just start it rolling down the hall very slowly. The ball would roll to one side of the hallway to the other, up and down, and even turn a corner, because the foundation is buckling. And frankly, the floors look like Lake Ray Hubbard on a windy day.
Mark Haslett: Very few people actually like paying taxes, but there are different degrees of aversion. Here in the Lone Star State, Texans and taxes are a bit like housecats and water. There’s more than a little suspicion. Bonham school superintendent Marvin Beaty knew that it would take some doing to get voters to approve funding for a new high school. When he took the job almost four years ago, the board of trustees told him that the old building was not long for this world. It had had problems since it opened in 1970. A new Bonham High School was needed.
Beaty: And I said, "Well, we can do that. I’ve passed bonds before, and I’ve executed them, and that’s no problem. And they said, "Well understand, you’re going to be paying for the perceived sins of others." And I said, "I don’t understand." And they said, "Well right now there’s not a lot of trust between the community and the school." And you know of course "the school" means anybody employed here. Of course I wasn’t here when these perceived problems took place but they said, "There’s a trust issue." And I said, "Well, we can fix that if we’re careful to tell people what we’re going to do, and then do that. Don’t do something else."
Haslett: There was another project in the works – a renovation of Evans Intermediate School in Bonham. Beaty knew that some trust could be rebuilt if that project went well. Beaty says it did – the old building looks nice, by all accounts, and the final bill came in under budget. Meanwhile, the high school kept getting worse. Yes, students would roll round objects down the hallway and then laugh as the balls would weave and change directions.
Beaty: We had the foundation rise up, and in the southwest corner on the front of the high school, it literally pinned the doors shut. We couldn’t open the doors, the front doors of the school. We had to jackhammer out a humongous area and re-pour it, and then put in new doors and whatnot. So we hired Stantec, they’re one of the top school architectural firms in the country. So we visited with them, and they said, "OK, here’s the process: It’s not going to work if it’s administration telling people this is what we need to do. The people have to determine for themselves that this needs to be done." I said, "I agree." So each board member nominated as many people as they wanted, and between they nominated, I think, 79 people to serve on a community committee.
Haslett: This committee had no board members or administrators participating in a voting capacity, although they did attend the four months’ worth of meetings. During that time, all facilities in the district were evaluated. Of course the resulting wish list of desired improvements had a price tag well beyond anything the district could afford – more than $46 million. It was time to make choices.
Beaty: And when it came down to it, we said "What are the most critical needs we have?" Well, they determined the most critical needs we have all reside at Bonham High School.
Haslett: In the end, it all came down to last Saturday’s vote. The result? Voters approved a $30 million dollar bond proposal for a new Bonham High School. It passed with about 68 percent of the vote. You can find details about the project online at our website, KETR.org. For KETR news, this is Mark Haslett.