$140,000,000 Tulsa School bond issue package proposed

Thursday, August 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa voters may decide the largest school bond proposal in city history in November. A citizens' bond development committee gave final approval Wednesday afternoon to a nearly $141-million package of improvements for Tulsa Public Schools.

The News on Six's Glenda Silvey says the citizens committee is composed of representatives from throughout the district who follow the recommendations of Tulsa Public Schools' long range plan, to develop a list of projects for the school bond. They say $140-million is a lot of money, but schools need it and it won't require a tax increase.

A brand new school for Eugene Field is one of the major projects in the 2001 school bond proposal. The west Tulsa elementary school was identified by architects as one of the worst in the district. Committee Chair Rachel Maze says to identify bond projects, the group adhered strictly to a long-range plan developed five years ago. "That we would do facilities not based on interest and desires, but strictly on need, the condition of the facilities as determined by the architect, and on mobility in crowded areas."

The bond package is broken down into four categories. More than $101-million for facilities. $8-million for libraries. Nearly $26-million for textbooks and technology. $5,400,000 for transportation, for a total cost of $140,710,000. Thirteen school sites will undergo major renovation, another eight, partial renovation. Hale High will receive $9-million in improvements. Edison and Webster Highs are also on that list, along with Marshall Elementary and Wright Elementary. Carver Middle School will receive a new cafeteria, gymnasium and classrooms. Several east side schools are scheduled for improvements, including Cooper Elementary.

Maze says the committee arrived at its cost figure specifically to keep the tax rate level. "We have had a good economy. There has been more come into the coffers and we also have very efficiently managed the last two bonds, so that we were ready to move ahead and the money was available without raising taxes." Bob LaBass with Tulsa Public Schools: "I think it's important to keep improving the infrastructure of the city, and the schools definitely are a part of the infrastructure. These schools are 40-50 years old. If you lived in a house you would be doing work on them. We have not had any work done on them for 40 years, or thirty years."

Maze wants Tulsans to know that a citizens committee oversees every penny spent on bond projects. "A citizens committee developed it and we're just playing catch up and we're bringing our district up to where we want it to be for the quality of life for our kids." Maze says the package also includes more money for musical instruments and science equipment than ever proposed and pool upgrades at all high schools. Several auditoriums will be renovated, and Will Rogers will have a new gymnasium.

The committee will deliver its recommendation to Superintendent David Sawyer, who will present it to the school board for a vote at its September 4th meeting. If approved, the school bond election will be held November 13th.