The existing building, located at 501 S. LBJ Drive, San Marcos, was vacated in November after two air quality tests performed in July and September came back positive for mold. The companies that performed the tests recommended remediation be performed as soon as possible.
Trustee Miguel Arredondo made the motion to narrow down the list of replacement options to pursue from six to four and cap the cost at $3.5 million.
He also asked for an update at the board's February meeting, where—as specified in his motion—trustees will select a final option and talk about how to finance it.
Trustees Lupe Costilla, Kathy Hansen and Margie Villalpando dissented.
The four options trustees voted to pursue are:
- renovate the existing facility, which would cost an estimated $2.46 million;
- renovate and expand the existing facility, which would cost an estimated $8.9 million;
- demolish and construct a new facility at the site of the existing administration building, which would cost an estimated $9.4 million;
- and renovate a portion of Mendez Elementary School, which would cost an estimated $5.3 million.
"All four of those options have varying costs associated with them. My motion is is essentially saying, 'I want staff and administration to pursue those four options, and what $3.5 million would deliver for those four options,'" Arredondo said.
The first of two options that were eliminated was to build a new facility at the district-owned Suttles site at 201 Suttles Ave., which could cost $9.3 million; the second was to partner with an outside entity for a lease-to-own option.
At the school board's December meeting, several residents called for the district to buy back the old Lamar annex—which the district sold to developers a few years ago—possibly to use as an administration building.
The owners want to build Lindsey Hill, a mixed-use development, and are working with the city of San Marcos to revise their proposal and go through the city's approval process.
Assistant Superintendent Karen Griffith said another lease-to-own option would be on Wonder World Drive between I-35 and Hunter Road. She said pricing has not been discussed for this location or the Lindsey Hill location. She did not disclose the name of the entity that wants to build on Wonder World.
Trustee Kathy Hansen said it did not make sense to build on the current site of the administration building because it was no longer considered "central" to the district or the city. Hansen also said she was worried about how much demolition would need to take place to get rid of the asbestos and mold.
"We don't know what we're going to get when we start demolishing it," she said, adding she did not want to rule out building on the Suttles site.
Arredondo disagreed, saying the 501 S. LBJ Drive facility is centrally located in the community. He said he also liked the idea of expanding at Mendez, because eight of the district's campuses are on that side of the community.
Robert Tijerina, the district's financial counsel, said the fund balance would drop from $38.6 million to $35.1 million if the district used $3.5 million from the fund balance on the building.
"This is money that we took and collected for the education of the children and the school district," trustee John McGlothlin said. "Over time, we have not spent as much as we've collected on [maintenance and operation funds] ... it's gone into this fund balance, and I think it would be a shame to spend all that we can out of that on this simple facility."
Arredondo has expressed interest in putting the administration building on a future ballot for voter approval.
In the past 25 years, trustees have tried and failed to get a new administration building either by a bond election or through district funds four times.
Arredondo told Community Impact Newspaper in January he thinks voters would support a bond election for the new administration this time around.
"I think we are in a much healthier place financially, and I think our community has changed," he said.
Hays County Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson said if trustees want to put the election on the May ballot, they have until Feb. 16 to do so.
On Friday, Arredondo said if the cost of the building was more than $3.5 million, he would rather have the voters decide whether to pay for it through a bond then have the money come out of the fund balance.