Feature Illustration (above): San Angelo Independent School District proposes to include a new multi-purpose center for athletics and other extra-curricular activities in its Nov. 6 bond package. Courtesy: San Angelo ISD.
by Edmond Ortiz
Political races get most of the attention as the November 6 elections approach, but Texas voters in 73 tax districts practicing their civic duty must also consider more than $7.7 billion in bond proposals from school and hospital districts, and from cities for new construction, renovations, and infrastructure improvements—all meant to keep pace with growth.
Here’s a look at some of the more notable proposed bond measures:
The City of Austin has seven propositions totaling $925 million—the largest bond in its history.
The City of Austin bond propositions include $250 million for various affordable housing programs.
Among other things, voters will consider $250 for affordable housing; $128 million for libraries, museums and cultural centers; $149 million for parks and recreation; $184 million for flood mitigation, open space and water quality projection; and $160 for transportation and infrastructure.
“This is a bond package that, at its very core, is about housing affordability, infrastructure and equity in our city,” Mayor Steve Adler said at a bond campaign rally in September.
Three Austin City Council members dissented over calling the bond election. Councilwomen Ellen Troxclair and Ora Houston both called for a smaller price tag, expressing concern that not enough proposed funding is going to basic things such as infrastructure, and possibly too much money is proposed for affordable housing.
Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) is pushing a $508 million bond, just a year and a half after voters rejected RRISD’s $572 million package.
The new proposal would support improvements and expansion at McNeil and Westwood high schools, construction of an elementary school to relieve overcrowding at Herrington Elementary, and a new practice swim facility for district-wide use.
Round Rock ISD also is proposing safety and technology upgrades, and replacement of heating/venting/air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, roofs and plumbing at all schools.
Several taxpayer groups rallied opposition against RRISD’s 2017 bond, but this time around, opposition appears to be minuscule by comparison.
Georgetown Independent School District has a $166 million, two proposition package. The first proposition includes two new elementary campuses, expansion of Ford Elementary, land acquisition, more school buses, security upgrades, replacements of roofs and HVAC systems, and improvements to middle and high school athletic facilities.
The second proposition covers construction of a swimming facility.
“As the city grows, so does our enrollment,” school board President Scott Stribling said in a news release. “Our students deserve safe and functional facilities to learn and grow.”
After voters rejected its bond last May by 47 votes, the Caldwell Independent School District has a new proposal – a $36.2 million package, which would support remodeling of the existing middle school building and new construction on the Gray Street property to add pre-kindergarten through third-grade classrooms, and link the current cafeteria and existing structure.
The package also would include converting the existing intermediate school to a junior high school, more classrooms at the high school, and a new high/middle school gym at the high school property.
The City of Pflugerville is proposing a $21.1 million bond for four transportation projects:
- A second phase of improvements along Kelly Lane, including reconstruction and widening the road from West Falcon Pointe to Moorlynch Avenue;
- Construction of Colorado Sand Drive, a new four-lane road just east of Texas 130, from Copper Mine Drive to Lone Star Ranch Boulevard;
- Rebuilding and widening Old Austin Hutto Road from Pecan Street to FM 685;
- Extending Pflugerville Parkway east of Weiss Lane to create a continuous arterial route along the existing Jesse Bohls Drive.
The Pflugerville Independent School District has its own bond proposal, a $332 million package that would include three new elementary schools, one new middle school, land purchases, classroom additions at Delco Primary and Dessau Elementary campuses, improvements to existing schools and athletic facilities.
The City of Hutto proposed a $125 million, three-proposition package for road and drainage projects, improvements to the parks and recreation system, and enhancing the public safety and communications complex.
Kerrville Independent School District is promoting an $88.9 million bond package, which would focus on replacing Hal Peterson Middle School. Other monies would go to improve safety, security, infrastructure, and disabled accessibility at existing campuses.
“We believe the planning for this bond election has been a thorough and transparent process that included a comprehensive assessment of our existing facilities and input from the community,” Superintendent Mark Foust said in a district press release.
In San Antonio, Southwest Independent School District’s $75 million proposal would include renovations to Southwest High and Scobee Middle schools, a new natatorium, purchase of new school buses, acquisition of future school sites, and technology and infrastructure upgrades district-wide.
Southside Independent School District proposes $17.2 million to build a multipurpose indoor facility to host band, dance, cheer, ROTC and other activities and competitions; build six new high school tennis courts; renovate existing locker rooms; fund track and field improvements at Losoya and Matthey middle schools; and upgrade stadium security and parking.
The City of Laredo is asking voters to approve relocating a sports complex project and to finance an additional athletic complex using current venue sales tax revenue. This is not a bond-financed referendum but it is on the ballot and does involve tax dollars.
Laredo voters in 2014 approved the city’s then-planned development of a public sports complex, which was to be located at Texas A&M International University. Because of unforeseen circumstances, the city and the university were unable to reach an agreement. A “no” vote is to be against relocation and for authorizing a single new sports complex project.
Laredo voters are also being asked to finance development of a downtown Laredo Conference Center. It would be financed with revenue from local car rental and hotel occupancy tax revenue, proceeds from the former civic center sale, and capital improvement funds.
Fort Bend Independent School District is pushing a $992 million package. The single proposal calls for $403.4 million for new construction, rebuilds and additions, including three elementary campuses, design of one middle school, construction of one high school, the reconstruction of Lakeview and Meadows elementaries, and additions at Madden and Neill elementaries.
The rest of the FBISD bond would support improvements at existing facilities, transportation, technology, safety and security upgrades, and land purchases.
Alvin Independent School District has two propositions on the ballot, a $480.5 million bond package (Proposition A), and a Penny Swap (Proposition B). The Penny Swap is a dollar for dollar swap from maintenance and operations to debt payment that allows a school district to maximize its state contribution without raising local taxes.
Alvin ISD is asking residents to approve two interdependent propositions–one for construction projects and the other to maximize state funding without a tax increase.
The City of Longview is floating a $104.2 million, multi-proposal bond that could cover street and drainage improvements, upgrades to public safety facilities, and to parks and recreational centers.
The College of the Mainland is proposing $162.5 million to expand its Texas City campus with plans for three new buildings.
The package includes additions and renovations to the campus fine arts building, expansion of the college’s physical plant, and technology upgrades.
Collin County Commissioners Court is asking voters to approve a $750 million bond package. The lion’s share, $600 million is for high-speed roadways. Another $140 million is for arterial roads, and $10 million is to be used for parks projects.
Tarrant County Hospital District (JPS Health Network) has proposed a single-proposition $800 million bond to expand its system, including: a new mental health and behavioral health hospital; a new main hospital tower for general and specialized patient care-physician nurse training and level-one trauma care; a new cancer center; four new neighborhood health centers; and a new ambulatory surgical center.
It’s the first bond election in 33 years for the hospital district, which pledges to match bond sales proceeds with $300 million-$400 million in cash reserves.
Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District has proposed $350.9 million in bonds for renovations to all campuses, security and technology upgrades, and fine arts and athletic improvements.
Birdville Independent School District is floating a $252.8 million bond to replace five campuses with four (Haltom and Richland middle schools, Smithfield and Major Cheney/Richland elementary schools); renovate Smithfield Middle and Haltom high schools; and upgrade security and technology district-wide.
One of the Birdville ISD bond program initiatives will improve the availability of technology equipment to students.
The City of Arlington has a $189.5 million multi-proposal bond to fund improving roads, parks and recreational facilities, police and fire stations, and other city and administrative facilities.
Abilene Independent School District proposed a $138.7 million package, seeking to replace Austin, Taylor and Dyess elementaries, build a new career/technology education commuter high school, and upgrade athletic facilities at Abilene and Cooper high schools.
AISD also wants to do fine arts renovations at Abilene and Cooper, build new band halls, construct a new track and field complex at Shotwell Stadium, upgrade athletic facilities at all four middle schools, enhance the track and field facilities at three middle schools, and improve HVAC systems at most existing facilities.
San Angelo ISD’s bond package includes a new multi-purpose center.
San Angelo Independent School District is offering a $145 million, double-proposal package. Proposition A ($111.4 million) would cover classroom additions and renovations, and upgrades in security and disabled accessibility at existing facilities.
Prop B would fund construction of new baseball and softball field houses at Lake View High School, a new multi-purpose center/gym at Central High School, and an addition to connect Sarah Bernhardt Theater to the new multi-purpose center/gym.
San Angelo ISD proposed a $149 million bond that was first reported as winning by three votes in the May 2018 election. But final results showed the package failed by two votes.
Lubbock Independent School District has a $130 million package that would cover: a new elementary school through consolidation of three north Lubbock elementaries; security, roofing and HVAC upgrades district-wide; renovation of Monterey High School auditorium; additions at Talkington School for Young Women Leaders; and updates to the agricultural/STEM complex.
Canyon Independent School District’s $196.7 million bond would include two new elementary schools, a new high school, renovation and expansion of Randall West, converting Randall East back to a junior high, and technology and other improvements district-wide.
Edmond Ortiz is a San Antonio-based freelance reporter and editor. He has worked for the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers. He is a contributor to Virtual Builders Exchange and the Rivard Report. His Twitter handle is @satscribe.