DALLAS — The largest school bond requests on local ballots in Texas May 10 won easy approval as voters considered $6.7 billion of proposals.
The top five bond proposals from some of the state's largest school districts accounted for more than half the requested amount of bond authorization and won easy passage.
Voters in Fort Worth also approved $292 million of general obligation bonds for streets, parks, community centers and libraries. The city's $219.74 million transportation and infrastructure portion of the bond passed with an overwhelming 83% of the vote.
Laredo Community College also won nearly 64% approval of its $100 million bond proposal.
"We will now begin working to get the financing ready so we can begin working on projects by the fall," said LCC president Juan L. Maldonado.
Of the 10 school districts that asked voters for more than $100 million of bond authority, only the Wichita Falls Independent School District's $125 million bond request failed, losing by a more than 2-to-1 margin.
Several districts had waited seven years or more since their last bond election, a concession to the recession of 2008 that proved less economically harmful to Texas than many other fast-growing states.
In the Houston suburbs, the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District celebrated victory in the state's largest bond proposal, for $1.2 billion, by a better than 2 to 1 margin.
"The Cypress-Fairbanks community has always been vocal in their support for their children's public education, and today they have spoken at the polls," said Cy-Fair Superintendent Mark Henry said in a written statement after the results were reported.
The maximum potential increase on the interest and sinking tax rate resulting from the passage of the bond referendum is projected to be 4.5 cents, which equals $65.25 per year for a home valued at $200,000.
Cy-Fair has financed about $2.25 billion in schoolhouse bonds over the last 16 years, officials noted.
This includes bond proposals that were passed in: 1998 for $264.6 million; 2001 for $470.5 million; 2004 for $713.2 million; and 2007 for $807 million. All but $200 million of the 2007 bond authorization has been sold, and all but $35 million of the 2004 bond authorization has been sold.
In the Dallas suburb of Frisco, voters in the Frisco Independent School District approved a $775 million bond measure with 77% of the vote. The district, one of the fastest growing in the nation, plans to build 14 schools with proceeds from the bonds.
"We take their support and confidence as a responsibility into the future - a responsibility to continue to plan and execute the model that has and continues to attract families," said Frisco ISD superintendent Jeremy Lyon.
The bond program will add eight elementary schools, three middle schools and three high schools. Frisco ISD has more than 46,000 students in 56 schools, with seven more campuses currently under construction.
The bond proposal was vociferously opposed by Tea Party groups in the overwhelmingly Republican district. But some bond supporters told the Dallas Morning News that the opposition ended up working in their favor, prompting voters to turn out in large numbers. The supporters had worried that low voter turnout would make it easier to defeat the bond.
In the Arlington Independent School District between Dallas and Fort Worth, voters proved nearly equally generous, approving $663 million of bonds by nearly 70% of the vote. The bond proposal was the largest in Tarrant County history.
The school district will soon begin construction of a $46 million career and technical center, a $25 million athletic complex, a $32 million fine-arts center, a $2.5 million agricultural science facility and $60 million in multipurpose activity centers.
AISD School Board president Bowie Hogg called the margin of victory "an overwhelming message by the community that we support public schools and we are not going to sit back and not allow our schools to be the best they can be."
The AISD tax rate will rise as much as 15 cents from 2016 to 2020. For the owner of a $100,000 home, that's about $126 a year, according to the district. The average home value in the district is $115,287.
In suburban San Antonio, voters in the Northside Independent School District approved a $648.3 million bond proposal with 65% of the vote.
The 2014 bond authorization will build six new schools, but 55% of it will go to upgrading and renovating older campuses and facilities.
The city's largest school district adds 2,000 to 3,000 students annually. Most of the new schools, including a new high school, will be built in fast-growing neighborhoods in the southwestern part of the district.
For Northside, it was the seventh consecutive bond issue voters have passed since 1995. Voters last passed a $535 million bond issue in 2010.
"The passage of this bond speaks to the confidence that this community has in Northside ISD," said superintendent Brian T. Woods.
In the Austin suburbs, the Round Rock and Pflugerville school districts both enjoyed strong support for a combined $587 million of bonds.
In Round Rock, home to Dell Computer, voters approved $300 million of bonds to accommodate growth. The district reports that its student population has grown from 41,000 students to nearly 46,500 students in the six years since the last bond election.
According to the state comptroller, RRISD has $664.4 million in tax-supported debt.
In neighboring Pflugerville ISD, 64% of voters approved a record bond proposal of $287 million. It was the district's first bond proposal since 2007.
The bonds allow PISD to keep pace with its 400-student-per-year growth trend, according to district officials.
"We have a community that is extremely supportive of our school district and today's results are a clear reflection of that. We want to thank the entire Pflugerville ISD community for its continued support of the school district," Pflugerville superintendent Alex Torrez said in a statement.