Trustees of Socorro Independent School District voted last week to ask voters to approve a $297 million general obligation bond issue May 14.

The district would use the proceeds to build new schools to meet increased enrollment demands and upgrade the air-conditioning systems at 13 elementary schools from evaporative cooling to refrigerated air.

Superintendent Xavier De La Torre said the additional bonds would require an increase in the district’s property tax rate to $1.24 from the current $1.18 per $100 of assessed valuation. The increase would be phased in over several years, he said, with an initial increase of 3 to 4 cents.

De La Torre said enrollment is going up about 1,300 students each year, pushing district facilities to the brink of their designed capacity.

The superintendent said portable classrooms would not ease the current overcrowding or provide sufficient capacity for additional growth.

The district’s $322 million of outstanding general obligation debt is rated AA-minus by Standard & Poor’s, but coverage by the Texas Permanent School Fund enhances the debt to triple-A.

Socorro ISD serves the town of Socorro and the eastern portion of El Paso. Local voters defeated a $397 million bond proposal in 2007.

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