It seems like it took forever, but the Richardson ISD school board finally approved a bond package to go to the voters in the May 7 election. Public engagement began way back in November with a series of meetings in a so-called listening tour.
I was originally skeptical. There were gaps, there were frills, there were areas not thought out yet. But the RISD administrators were up front with the public. They said they deliberately asked for public feedback early in the process to give the public maximum opportunity to shape the final package. And it looks like that's just what happened. The "listening tour" was, in fact, really truly, a listening tour. The RISD listened and adapted the bond package accordingly. Kudos to the RISD.
The total package, at $437 million, is bigger than I thought the RISD would dare endorse. But the identified maintenance items alone totalled more than could be carried without a tax rate increase. That's what happens when a recession causes the government to defer needed maintenance. The catch-up can come with sticker shock. (The fact that government spending *during* the recession would have had salutary effects on the economy is an issue for another article.)
The RISD controlled the size of the total package by chipping away at the cost of the easiest target in the package -- those four multi-purpose facilities at the four high schools. Once the RISD cut their cost by 25%, the public moved on to enrollment growth and classroom capacity as the issue getting closest scrutiny. The RISD included $107 million in the bond package to renovate existing schools, enlarge several and leave $47 million to be used for addressing capacity growth, especially in the Lake Highlands area.
The result is that there's something for everyone. Building maintenance. School construction for overcrowded schools. Career and technology upgrades and expansion. Additional space for athletics, band, dance and drill teams and numerous extracurricular activities.
Finally, and this goes against my original recommendation, the school board bundled this all into a single ballot proposition. I now realize that any other ballot packaging could have created a divisive environment that would have carried over beyond the election. The RISD community should rally around the school system that is responsible for many of us moving to and staying in this area and approve this bond on May 7.