DALLAS — The Dallas Independent School District should limit its bond proposal to $1.3 billion on the May 10 ballot if it hopes to win voter approval, an advisory committee says.

The district has $2.65 billion of needs over the next eight years, but a recent poll showed that voters would not go that high, officials said.

The bond election comes as the economy in Dallas is weakening, although not as dramatically as some parts of the country where housing prices have fallen sharply.

Voters approved a record $1.4 billion in 2002.

DISD board member Leigh Ann Ellis said the recommended $1.3 billion is more realistic this time around, but did not say whether she will vote to put the issue on the ballot.

Phil Jimerson, executive director of construction services, said officials expect to complete plans for the bond package over the next two weeks and then present recommendations to the trustees at a briefing Feb. 15.

The board will most likely then vote on the proposed bond package at its regularly scheduled, monthly meeting two weeks later. The board needs to call for the election before March 10 to have the referendum on the May 10 ballot.

A task force that has been studying the district’s facility needs for nearly a year said the district would need to seek another $1.3 billion in four years to cover the needs of the schools.

The $1.3 billion proposal would cover 13 new schools, additions to 12 campuses, $12 million worth of science labs and $96 million for technology improvements district-wide.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa is also seeking financing for a downtown magnet school to teach technology and international business. He also wants a partnership with the University of North Texas at Dallas that would allow high school students to take college classes.Trustee Nancy Bingham, who represents rapidly growing southeastern Dallas, said she supports the call for the bonds.

If the school board proposes the $1.3 billion, plans to close eight recently renovated schools would be curtailed. Instead, six of the eight schools would stay open as the other two were converted to other uses.

One of DISD’s oldest schools, Adamson High School, would still be replaced, even though the district spent $9 million to renovate it in 2006. The bond committee recommends that Adamson be replaced with a new, 175,000-square-foot high school.

About half of the new schools would be in the district’s southeastern quadrant, which includes Pleasant Grove, Wilmer-Hutchins and Seagoville. DISD is in the process of absorbing the Wilmer-Hutchins Independent School District, which closed in 2005.

Under the 2002 bond program, DISD has completed 19 of 20 new schools and all 33 additions to existing schools. The district has also completed 137 of 148 renovations and 1,547 new classrooms. More than 900 contractors have been hired to handle the bond-financed construction.

The district issued its last $285 million from the 2002 authorization in February 2006. The debt receives triple-A ratings due to its backing from the Texas Permanent School Fund, with underlying ratings of AA from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s and Aa3 from Moody’s Investors Service.

 

 

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