In July the El Paso Independent School District proposed adding a $242 million bond election to the November ballot. The administration wanted the proposed bond monies for refrigerated air conditioners, improving sports facilities and converting lighting to LED. Last week, the Board of Trustees removed the bond proposal from the agenda.
However, EPISD taxes will be going up by about $75 a year for an average home in the district. The reason for the tax increase is that the trustees approved spending $218 million from the 2016 bond election earlier this year. This is the last installment of the 2016 approved bond monies.
In 2016, El Paso school district voters approved a $668.7 million bond for the district. It was the largest bond in the County’s history. The 2016 bond was for school upgrades, new technology and new buses, as well as some athletic upgrades.
With the economic pressure, as the result of the global pandemic, taxpayers were hoping for some tax relief. The school district removed the bond proposal, however, the 2016 bonds have forced the school district to increase taxes this year.
EPISD Audit Identified $8 Million Unapproved Expenditures
An audit of the 2016 bond monies in 2019 found that $8.17 million of the bond money was spent without the approval of the school board. According to the audit, Carlos Gallinar authorized the expenditures without receiving the approval of the school board as required. Additionally, the audit found that Gallinar did not get board approval in five instances for services contracts over $100,000.
Gallinar left the school district before the audit was completed and refused to answer questions for the auditers, according to the report.
School Equipment Exposed To Elements
A concerned EPISD taxpayer submitted pictures to the El Paso Politics of school equipment exposed to the elements at Alta Vista Elementary School.
The concerned taxpayer, who wishes to remain unnamed, told the El Paso Politics that the pictures only represent “about a third” of what is there. The taxpayer expressed disappointment in the school district wasting taxpayer-funded school equipment by leaving it exposed to the elements.
Al Velarde Responds
In a Facebook exchange over the weekend, Al Velarde (District 2), school board vice-president, told Abel Rodriguez via Facebook that the school district is “looking for warehouse space” for the exposed classroom equipment. Velarde added that the school district does not have enough warehouse capacity to store the “furnishings tha[t] are needing to be stored.”
Al Velarde went on to write on the Facebook exchange that he does not expect EPISD to repost the bond for the November elections, even though “their [sic] a bunch of work that needs to get done.” According to Velarde, the 2016 bond monies “only addressed about half” of the school district needs.
Velarde closed his Facebook comments by stating that he will support “a larger bond in two years”, ending his post with “Nuff said.”