Texas voters favor most local bond proposals
DALLAS – Most of the more than $6 billion of local bonds on the ballot in Texas Saturday won voter approval, with schools getting the lion’s share of the new financing.
All of the 12 school district bond proposals of more than $100 million won passage with the exception of the $376.9 million Goose Creek Consolidated District’s near Houston.
Most bond proposals for cities were also well received, with voters approving $400 million for the city of Fort Worth. However, voters in Wichita Falls approved only $17 million of the $130 million the city asked for in seven ballot propositions.
About $5.2 billion of the statewide total came from school districts, led by San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District’s record $848.9 million proposal. Voters in the San Antonio area approved the record proposal by a better than two-to-one ratio. Northside’s bond proposal was the largest on ballots across the state.
The rapidly growing school district will use the bonds for renovations and upgrades at all but five of Northside’s 119 schools. Voters in the school district have approved six proposals since 2000, including a $648.3 million issue in 2014.
At a celebration Saturday night, board president M’Lissa Chumbley said the results indicate trust in the district’s staff, teachers and trustees.
“You’re asking people to increase their taxes,” Chumbley said. “You’re asking people to have faith and trust in us.”
A property tax rate increase to pay bond would bring the total rate to $1.4218 per $100 at peak debt service in 2025, which is 5 cents more than the current rate.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Denton ISD voters approved the state’s second-largest bond proposal, $750 million for construction, renovation, acquisition and equipment of school buildings in the district.
In the Humble ISD, a $575 million proposal won nearly 74% of the vote as the Houston-area school district nears its centennial year.
In Central Texas, Killeen ISD’s $426 million of bonds won strong voter support. Its first bond proposal in 16 years will fund a new elementary and high school, as well as the renovation of campuses that are over 50 years old. Serving the massive Fort Hood Army post, Killeen ISD is the state’s 26thlargest district.
In Dallas’s southern suburbs, Mesquite ISD voters approved a $325 million bond measure designed to help the district keep pace with growth.
Voters in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD in the Mid-Cities between Dallas and Fort Worth approved $199 million for school facilities.
In Montgomery County north of Houston, nearly 54% of voters approved New Caney ISD’s $200 million bond proposal. The district in the rapidly growing Houston suburbs has nearly doubled its 2007 enrollment of 8,671 students.
On the Texas-Mexico border, voters in the boom town of Laredo approved $150 million of bonds for the Laredo ISD.
In West Texas, a $149 million proposal for the San Angelo ISD appeared to have won by only three votes, but official results must wait until the May 14 school board meeting.
Another district in the Houston area, Texas City ISD, won passage of $136 million of bonds.
Dripping Springs ISD in the southern suburbs of Austin won voter approval for $132 million of bonds for the growing district.
Far fewer cities sought bonding authority, with most proposals below $100 million.
As Fort Worth voters approved the city’s $400 million for streets, draining, parks and related work, they also passed a $250 million proposal from the Tarrant Regional Water District that is a key to a billion-dollar development called Panther Island.
Promoters envision Panther Island as an 800-acre mixed-used development surrounded by more than 12 miles of canals and a continuous river walk. Housing, restaurants, shops and entertainment venues are part of the plan.
The development is contingent on rechanneling a 1.5-mile stretch of the Trinity River north of the Tarrant County Courthouse to carve out the island.
Launched in 2004 and expanded in 2009, the Panther Island project aims to improve flood control, clean up the Trinity River corridor environment and create recreation opportunities on more than 3,000 acres. The goal is to complete the project by 2028.
The project is a combined effort of the water district, city of Fort Worth, Tarrant County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Estimates of the project’s cost were originally $435 million in 2005, then increased to $909.9 million in 2009 with the addition of improvements in a related development called Gateway Park.
Other cities in Texas seeking approval of flood-control bonds met with similar support.
The Houston suburb of Katy enjoyed 88% support for three bond measures totaling $19.5 million as the coastal region nears the next hurricane season after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey last August.
The strong support may bode well for Harris County, which is planning to take a flood-control bond proposal to voters in a special election Aug. 25, the one-year anniversary of Harvey’s landfall. The hurricane dumped a record rainfall of more than 50 inches on the Houston area.
In Wichita Falls near the Oklahoma border, voters rejected all but one of seven bond proposals, many of which were designed to aid downtown redevelopment.
Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce president Henry Florsheim said in a prepared statement that he was not surprised by the results “because there’s so much mistrust of government right now at all levels."
"We’ve got to figure out as a community how to invest in ourselves so we’re not still having this same conversation twenty years from now," Florsheim said. "These propositions were but a small part of our plan to improve Wichita Falls. They would have helped us get there faster; but we’ll continue in our efforts to build a better community and become a city where more people want to be."