DALLAS — The capital program financed by $98.6 million of general obligation bonds being sought by the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District has been developed to help meet the South Texas district’s needs for the next decade.
Voters in the district, which serves the city of Harlingen in the Rio Grande Valley, will decide on the proposed bond package at an election on May 8.
Harlingen CISD had an enrollment of 18,292 students in September 2009, up from 15,857 students in September 2000. The district’s demographer has predicted an average annual enrollment increase of 1% a year for the next 10 years.
District superintendent Steven Flores said the new facilities and renovation projects that would be financed with proceeds from the bonds were proposed by a 70-member committee.
The panel spent months evaluating the district’s existing facilities and its growing student population.
“This comprehensive study of our schools and resulting recommendations was an important process,” Flores said. “The last bond election was passed in 1999, and fortunately for HCISD, we continue to grow.”
Voters in the district approved $80 million of GO bonds in 1999 and $20 million in 1989.
The district’s GO debt has unenhanced ratings of A2 from Moody’s Investors Service and AA-minus from Standard & Poor’s.
The district’s debt is covered by the Texas’ Permanent School Fund, which provides a triple-A rating.
Standard & Poor’s raised its unenhanced rating of Harlingen CISD debt in early December, with a stable outlook, based on what analyst Lauren Spalten called “the district’s historically very strong financial position.”
Harlingen CISD’s property tax base has experienced a growth in assessed valuation by an average of 6% annually over the past five years. The current tax base is $3.1 billion.
The district expects to be reimbursed for 50% of the debt service on the bonds through the state’s instructional facility allotment and existing debt allotment programs.
School trustees said if the district does not qualify for the state reimbursement, the bonds would not be issued.
With assistance from the state programs, passage of the bonds would result in an increase in the district’s property tax rate of 9.7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
If approved by voters, the bonds would finance a new middle school, a new ninth-grade academy, and new classrooms and renovations at several schools.
Bond projects also include a fine arts auditorium, an aquatic center, educational technology infrastructure, and upgrades at the district’s football stadium.