DALLAS – School districts in Texas are seeking more than $2 billion of general obligation bond authority from voters at the May 11 municipal elections.
At least 13 of the state’s more than 1,000 school districts are asking voters to approve bond referendums, said Joe Smith of TexasISD.com, who said that number will grow when all the districts report after the March 1 deadline to put bond elections onto the May ballot.
Texas school district bond elections are restricted to the second Saturday in May or the general election in November.
“The May elections are the most popular,” he said. “We had 45 districts holding bond elections in May 2012 and 59 elections in May 2011, but only 23 bond elections in November 2012 and 30 in November 2011.”
Districts in east, west, and southwest Texas with increased oil and gas production from previously unobtainable shale formations are trying to catch up with enrollment growth, Smith said.
“These districts were the poorest in the world and all of a sudden they have more students and higher property valuations,” he said.
More and more districts are seeing their debt capacity dwindle due to the state limit on the property tax rate for debt service of 50 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, Smith said.
“There are probably close to 20 of what I call the max-max districts,” he said. “They are already at the maximum operational rate of $1.17 as well as the 50 cents for interest and sinking.”
In addition to the usual construction and renovation projects on the school bond projects list, most districts are including campus safety and security needs in their requests.
The largest single proposal is the $892.3 million of GO bonds being sought by the Austin Independent School District. The four-part referendum includes $349.2 million for building repairs, $234 million for school safety and alleviation of overcrowded facilities, $168.6 million for athletics and academic initiatives, and $140.6 million for equipment and technology.
The $56 million referendum of Little Cypress-Mauriceville Consolidated Independent School District in Orange includes construction of secure front entrances at all its schools as well as new buildings at several existing campuses.
District-wide security upgrades are part of Tomball Independent School District’s $160 million bond request, and Levelland Independent School District’s proposed $39.5 million project list includes $2 million to install alarm and security systems at every campus in the Panhandle district.
Safety and security were foremost when developing the $54 million bond request by Corsicana Independent School District, Superintendent Diane Frost said. The district south of Dallas will use some of the proceeds build secure entryways at all schools to restrict access to student areas.
Other bond requests on the May ballot include $367 million by Clear Creek Independent School District, $270 million by Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District, $160.5 million by Tyler Independent School District, and $92.5 million from Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District.