DALLAS — Texas voters approved nearly $1.5 billion, or 83%, of the $1.8 billion in local school bond authorization requested Tuesday, but barely half of the 29 local districts were successful, according to updated results.
Nationally, voters approved 84.5% of the bond authorization dollars requested in Tuesday's election, the highest ratio since 2006 when 88.6% were approved. Of the $16.9 billion on the ballot, $14.3 billion was approved, the highest in dollar value since 2008.
Texas accounted for the lion's share of the bonds, with nearly $8 billion approved on statewide ballots, including $6 billion for water projects and $1.86 billion for student loans.
The five largest local school bond issues worth a combined $1.28 billion all won voter approval by various margins.
The largest bond issue on Tuesday's ballot, $399.4 million for San Antonio's North East Independent School District narrowly won passage with 52% of the vote. The second largest, $270 million for the Houston-area Pasadena Independent School District , won strong support, with nearly 69% of the vote.
In the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District , also near Houston, voters approved $249 million of bonds for new projects. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Mansfield Independent School District voters approved $198.5 million, while the Lake Travis Independent School District near Austin won approval for $158.5 million.
Smaller districts didn't fare as well. Of the 29 districts that sought approval of construction bonds, only 16, or 55%, succeeded.
In the suburban Dallas district of Cedar Hill, voters rejected both a $53 million bond package and a 13-cent property tax rate increase. The bonds failed by 67 votes, and it was the second time since 2008 that voters rejected a tax increase.
"The economic times and economic uncertainties we're in were not something helpful," Billie Ballengee, one of the Cedar Hill bond supporters, told the Dallas Morning News.
Only five of nine requests for property tax increases were approved, according to TexasISD.com. For the calendar year, 27 of 40 requests have been approved.
In the Dripping Springs Independent School District near Austin, Republican state Rep. Jason Isaac campaigned against a proposed local tax rate increase as well as voting to cut state funding for all districts in the 2011 Legislature. Only 26% of voters supported the increase.
In a letter to the editor to the local Hays County Roundup, Isaac wrote that the district spent too much on administration and other expenses in defiance of a legislative directive that at least 65% of revenues be used in the classroom.
"Although the district claims to spend close 54% in the classroom, that number ignores an entire sector of spending, such as repaying bond debt," Isaac wrote. "Instead of examining the imbalance between their classroom spending and administrative expenses, DSISD is turning to the taxpayers for a bailout."
The Dripping Springs increase would have raised property taxes 13 cents to $1.17 per $100 valuation. The school district scaled back expenses by $2.5 million after state funding was cut by $2.1 million.
The Cedar Hill Independent School District lost $3.2 million in state money during the last legislative session and is bracing for more potential cuts.
The bond package would have paid for repairs and upgrades to existing campuses, fixes to air-conditioning and heating systems, new computers, and a new baseball-softball complex.
All school districts in Texas could get some help from the state under a proposed constitutional amendment that would make more money available from the Permanent School Fund. Annual allotments known as the Available School Fund will use a different formula that could provide more money.