DALLAS — A fast-growing school district in the northern suburbs of Dallas is taking its case for general obligation bonds to voters on Nov. 3 for the third time in a year.
The Wylie Independent School District, located in southern Collin County, 24 miles northeast of downtown Dallas, is seeking voter approval on $77 million of GO bonds at the November election, after larger proposals were defeated in November 2008 and May of this year.
Last year’s request for $98.3 million was defeated by a margin of 731 votes, with 53% of those voting opposed and 47% in favor. Trustees whittled down the requested total, but in May voters rejected the revised proposal for $84.5 million of bonds by 69 votes, with 51% opposed. The last successful bond election in the district was in May 2004, for $148 million.
The current proposal is divided into three separate questions on the ballot, unlike the earlier, one-part proposals that failed.
The first proposition would provide $7.8 million for infrastructure upgrades, including $2.7 million for a high-capacity fiber-optic system to connect the district’s 18 campuses and $5.1 million of upgrades at two stadiums.
Proposition two would authorize $24.9 million of bonds to be used to build additions and provide renovations to five schools.
The third ballot question calls for $44.3 million of bonds to finance additions, conversions, and improvements at the district’s two high schools.
Wylie ISD’s GO debt is rated A-plus by Standard and Poor’s and A by Fitch Ratings.
James Farmer, school board president and a trustee since 1999, said the proposed bond program would enable the district to meet its current needs.
Many of the projects that would have been financed by the two unsuccessful bond proposals have been reduced in scope or postponed, he said.
“These bonds will fit our needs for the moment,” Farmer said. “But it does not have any money for any new schools. If our growth continues, the district will have to ask for additional bonds in a few more years.”
The district had 3,600 students in 1997 but now has more than 12,000. Annual growth has slowed from the 17% increase experienced over the past few years, but enrollment continues to increase at about 7% a year, Farmer said.
“It’s slowed down some, but we added about 700 students last year,” he said. “That is the equivalent of a new elementary school.”
Farmer said he was optimistic about the proposal’s passage.
“I really think this is going to pass,” he said. “This district has done a great job in dealing with rapid growth so far. We don’t even have any portable classrooms.
“But if it doesn’t pass, we’re going to see some crowded schools and classes with too many students,” Farmer added. “We could even see teachers and staff layoffs, simply because we won’t have enough classrooms for the kids.”