DALLAS — Voters across the Southwest approved nearly $4 billion of bond proposals in lightly attended off-year elections Tuesday.
In Texas, all 11 proposed constitutional amendments passed, including $2 billion of housing bonds for veterans and one establishing a $500 million research fund designed to help lift seven state universities to the coveted Tier 1 status.
Voters also authorized local governments to issue bonds to buy buffer zones around military installations and agreed to let the state share funding with the federal government to build a veterans hospital in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Texas could issue bonds to finance its share of the hospital, though no figures have been provided.
Texas voters also approved nearly $1 billion of school bonds, including $197.5 million for the Arlington Independent School District between Dallas and Fort Worth.
In the second-largest Texas school bond election, voters in the Brazosport Independent School District near Houston rejected $166 million of debt for maintenance and campus improvements.
Beyond Texas, voters in Utah approved $256 million of bonds for the Granite School District and $125 million for a new public safety complex in Salt Lake City.
In fiscally troubled Arizona, voters approved more than $330 million worth of bonds and budget overrides for public schools.
While most of the 28 districts in the Phoenix area won approval to raise taxes for maintenance and operations, voters in the Phoenix Union High School District rejected a $13.7 million maintenance and operations budget override, according to unofficial results.
In Colorado, voters in environmentally conscious Boulder County appeared to be rejecting $85 million in bonding authority for energy-efficiency loans.
The program to help finance improvements to homes and offices was established in 2008 with approval of the initial $40 million of debt for the ClimateSmart Loan Program.
In Texas, approval of Proposition 4 will create the National Research University Fund with an initial endowment of about $500 million.
The state Legislature has committed to $50 million contributions per year with a goal of building the fund to $2 billion. It is expected to function much like the Permanent University Fund that backs bonds for the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems.
The beneficiaries of the new fund will be University of Texas branches at Arlington, Dallas, El Paso, and San Antonio, the University of Houston, and the University of North Texas, based in Denton. Business leaders in North Texas campaigned heavily for the proposition.
While Houston has a Tier 1 school in Rice University, the Dallas-Fort Worth area with a larger population lacks the prestigious status.
The state’s other Tier 1 universities are the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M’s main campus in College Station. Both universities are in Central Texas.
With voter approval, the Texas Veterans Land Board will be able to replenish a $2 billion program whose previously issued bonds have been retired.
The $2 billion in bond-backed mortgage loans are expected to be issued over the next decade. No date has been set for issuance.
In the Texas school bond elections, Arlington ISD’s $197.5 million bond proposal was the district’s first new-money request in 10 years.
The bonds will provide $115.8 million to build a new elementary school and repair and upgrade existing facilities, $60 million for new technology, $13.3 million for 120 new buses, and $8.3 million for fine arts programs.
Voters in the Wylie Independent School District northeast of Dallas approved $24.9 million of GO bonds for additions and renovations to five schools.
However, a $7.8 million proposal for infrastructure upgrades at several schools and a $44.3 million proposal for additions, conversions, and improvements at the district’s two high schools, were defeated.
Voters approved a $70 million bond package for the Alvin Independent School District that will finance a new elementary school and land acquisition and design for another new elementary school.
Almost 60% of those voting rejected a request by the South San Antonio Independent School District for $62 million of GOs to renovate the district’s high school.
The Abilene Independent School District will not be building a vocational education high school in the West Texas city as voters rejected a $25 million bond proposal for the project.
Lindale Independent School District officials said they would begin work on new facilities throughout the East Texas district with approval of $42 million of GOs.
Voters in two Harris County school districts split on joining the Houston Community College taxing district.
Residents of school districts that are a part of the taxing district pay reduced tuition but are subject to the community college district’s property tax of nine cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
The Spring Branch Independent School District will not become part of the taxing district, but North Forest Independent School District voters decided to join it.
Almost 80% of Spring Branch voters rejected the proposal, while North Forest voters overwhelmingly approved the merger.
In municipal elections, voters in Lubbock, Tex., authorized the city to issue more than $50 million of GO bonds, but rejected another $11.2 million of requested bonds.
Proposals for $43 million of bonds for street repairs and $7.5 million for new fire stations received support, but voters rejected a request for $9 million for soccer fields and $1.2 million for recreational equipment at four city parks.
Deaf Smith County voters approved $28 million of bonds to finance a replacement hospital in the Panhandle city of Hereford.
Huntsville will renovate and expand its 42-year-old public library with proceeds from $3.5 million of bonds approved by voters on Tuesday. The bond proposal won by a margin of 1,478 in favor and 349 opposed.
Voters in the Central Texas town of Hutto approved three of four proposals in the city’s first bond election.
The three proposals that passed authorize $8.5 million of bonds for street upgrades, $3.3 million for improvements to a city park, and $5 million for a YMCA facility.
Voters turned down a request for $6 million of bonds for a new sports complex in the town of some 17,000 residents.
Another first-ever bond election in the Galveston suburb of Santa Fe saw all three proposals defeated.
Voters turned down requests for $5 million of GOs for a new police station, $3 million to expand the city library, and $900,000 for a new public works building.
Santa Fe voters overwhelmingly rejected the public works and the library bonds, but the bonds for the new police station failed by only 24 votes.
Santa Fe Mayor Ralph Stenzel said he was disappointed, but vowed to revise the failed measures and bring them back before voters in May.