Bumps and Bonds

School board talks school zone traffic and possible projects

By Shanna Cummings

The school board convened for a quick pre-Thanksgiving regular meeting on November 22. The board discussed primarily two topics: the ongoing traffic speed issue around the school and a potential 2022 bond initiative.

Regarding the traffic issue, Superintendent Ken Baugh said a traffic study for Parkhill Street would cost the district $56,000. There is only one firm that would perform the traffic study, he said, so they set the price. Speeding within the school zone has been a problem for some time, and Baugh said he’s been known to stand in the street to force drivers to slow down while students are near.

“We’re lucky that nothing has happened,” one board member remarked.

The major question around paying for and initiating the traffic study is whether or not the results will spur the City of Van Horn to take action. Since the City owns the roads, the school district cannot install speed bumps or other speed-reducing devices within the school zone without City approval. In the past, the City has resisted installing speed bumps or speed humps because of liability should the speed bumps cause damage or injury when identified as “obstructions” to the free flow of traffic. According to a traffic Q&A provided on the Texas Municipal League website, legal cases have been decided based on “obstructions” in the road such as piles of gravel, but not speed bumps.

“First of all, if you tear your car up over a speed bump, then you’re speeding, you’re breaking the law,” Baugh said.

The board decided to approach the City Council directly at the December 14 council meeting 

and will discuss the issue together again at the December 15 school board meeting.

Potential Bond

The board also discussed a bond initiative for the coming year to take advantage of the flow of revenue from gas and oil. The district is currently financially healthy, and has paid off or significantly paid down the previous bonds as much as legally possible while also cutting taxes. Baugh said he would also include a tax cut in 2022.

The influx of oil and gas money may not last long, Baugh said, and he said a bond would allow the district to tackle some projects while still paying it off quickly by taking advantage of the oil and natural gas monies. He has previously floated the idea of a bus barn to protect the district’s transportation fleet, as well as recreation areas for the elementary and junior high, a band hall, and bringing the red school up to code to preserve history. Baugh also mentioned taking over the daycare, and – if legally possible – drilling a water well or building a water storage tank to help relieve the city’s water infrastructure troubles.

Baugh said a 10-year bond could be paid off in 7 years.

Other school board business

  • Approval of an Attendance Credit Contract
  • Approval of a sale of a lot
  • Documenting distribution of votes for each of the school district’s three Culberson County Appraisal District directors