The question of how one Texas school district plans to pay for its $1.35 million state-of-the-art jumbotron system exploded when four newly-elected board members filed a lawsuit to stop a vote they believed would have saddled area taxpayers with those costs.
Even before taking their oaths of office on Friday night, trustees-elect Elaina Reihl, Carl Jenkins, Ben Amador, and Cinde Thomas-Jimenez filed an action against the Seguin Independent School District. As a result, the November 15 board meeting was canceled and no vote took place on two agenda items, one of which was about the pricy jumbotron.
The Seguin Gazette reported new board members expressed major concern over an action item on the issuance of a maintenance tax notes that, potentially, could have stuck the taxpayers for the $1.35 million. Incoming trustees also objected to the board approving the jumbotron purchase in June as well as recently approving district procedural changes which the newly-elected board members believed would stymie their decision making power. Trustee-elect Thomas-Jimenez asserted the board made the procedural changes without public discussion.
Breitbart Texas reported Seguin ISD Superintendent Stetson Roane masterminded the sports video display project and purchased it from Nevco, an Illinois-based LED scoreboard company. Presently, the jumbotrons remain unfunded. Seguin ISD spokesman Sean Hoffman indicated district officials were developing a marketing plan with Nevco to enable the system to pay for itself through regional and local advertising plus sponsorships. However, Roane said if they cannot obtain adequate funding this way, the district will find a way to cover expenses.
Initially, Seguin ISD sought to pay for the high-tech double-screen system through a $10 million U.S. Education Department bond but the Texas Education Agency (TEA) would not rubber stamp their request for federal funds until the school district removed the jumbotrons from the request. Then, Roane considered paying for the colossal electronic display boards through Seguin ISD’s fund balance, financing, or a combination of the two before settling on the Nevco plan.
Incoming trustee Reihl told the San Antonio Express-News: “We felt that we needed to be part of the decision-making with four new board members coming in.” Other new trustees asserted Roane bought the system without appropriating funds for it or seeking competitive bids.
Craig Thomas, one of the four exiting trustees, told the San Antonio newspaper no bids were required because the district used BuyBoard, a government purchased cooperative that provides vendor bids to its members on an array of goods. He said: “To my knowledge, there is no violation of the procurement process.”
Thomas anticipates the system will pay for itself through advertising dollars and field rentals. Other outgoing trustees asserted if the marketing plan does not cover the requisite $80,000 annual payments, the district would issue $1.35 million in notes backed by property taxes to fund it so the district need not touch its reserve fund.
Recently, Seguin High School unveiled the first of the two high-definition LED super-sized screens at its 61-year-old Matador Stadium where the team plays five home games a year. This jumbotron measures 51 feet tall and 47 feet wide. The second, not yet constructed, is expected to be a 10-by-19-foot “tailgate board” that faces the stadium parking lot. The combined size of the two screens will result in a whopping 1,590 square feet of video space. According to Hoffman, the district does not have to pay for the system until after the second scoreboard is completed.
Barbara Effenberger, one of the remaining three existing board members, was the lone trustee to vote against the jumbotrons in June.
Seguin ISD attorney Benjamin Castillo called the plaintiffs’ allegations unfounded, telling the San Antonio newspaper he thought it was a “bit concerning for current administrative staff when you have four new board members filing a lawsuit claiming they violated procurement procedures when that is not true.”
The attorney for the plaintiffs, Chris Schulz, plans to withdraw the lawsuit.
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