Texans pass billions of dollars worth of bond debt, paid for by property tax hikes

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(The Center Square) – Texans statewide passed billions of dollars’ worth of bonds on Tuesday, according to unofficial results. All bond proposition ballot language explicitly states, “This is a property tax increase.”

Voters passing the bonds erased the gains made through property tax reforms enacted by the legislature, critics argue. They did so as voters statewide overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment designed to reduce property taxes, according to unofficial results published by the Secretary of State’s Office.

All bond amounts are principal only. None of the approved debt or taxes are tied to improving educational outcomes. The majority of districts have large percentages of disadvantaged students and existing billions of dollars in debt obligations combined.

Currently enrolled students, when they are in their 30s to 50s, will still be paying off the debt and interest on the new technology (iPads, laptops, desktop computers) the districts purchased that will be obsolete in a few years’ time.

Nearly all of the largest bond propositions passed in Aldine, Conroe, Lewisville, Midland and Prosper independent school districts. Voters passed the largest ISD bond propositions in state history with combined debt obligations totaling over $7 billion.

Aldine ISD voters approved $1.8 billion in bonds, the largest in the district’s history, according to unofficial results. They include $1.6 billion to build new schools, among other projects; $122.3 million to build a new performing arts center, and $67.5 million to purchase new technology. Including existing debt obligations, taxpayers will owe over $5 billion in total debt obligations.

Conroe ISD voters are projected to have approved over $1.8 billion in three bonds, the largest total in district history. They include $1.8 million to build eight new schools and renovate existing schools, $40 million for new technology, and $112.8 million to build new elementary school gyms and classrooms and an agricultural barn. Voters appear to have barely rejected a $22.9 million bond to build a new pool and renovate its natatorium.

Combined, residents will owe over $5 billion in total debt obligations. This is after they approved over $677 million in bonds in November 2019.

Lewisville ISD voters approved over $1.2 billion in bond propositions including $960.5 million to fund building maintenance, repairs and renovations and $69.6 million to purchase new technology. They appear to have rejected several athletics-related bonds including $131.82 million to build athletic facilities, $31.4 million to maintain athletic facilities, and $20 million and $16.25 million for football stadium and aquatics center maintenance, respectively.

Including outstanding debt obligations, taxpayers will owe over $3 billion in total debt obligations.

Midland ISD voters approved increasing their property taxes to fund a $1.4 billion bond to build new schools, according to unofficial results. The bond’s interest is greater than its principal of over $1.5 billion. Including existing debt obligations, taxpayers will owe over $3 billion in total debt obligations.

Prosper ISD voters appeared to have approved three of four bond propositions, totaling the largest ISD bond amount on the ballot in Texas of $2.7 billion. They include $2.4 billion to upgrade existing facilities and build new schools, $140 million to purchase new technology, and $125 million to build a new performing arts center. Voters appear to have rejected a $102.4 million bond to build new athletic facilities, including an 8,000-seat stadium.

Of the 86 ISD bond propositions on the ballot, the next largest totals passed, according to unofficial results. Not all multi-bond propositions appeared to have passed. They include:

• Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD (Tarrant County): $979.3 million to build new high schools and elementary schools;

• Katy ISD (Fort Bend, Harris Waller counties): $722.99 million to purchase new school sites; $83.57 million to purchase new technology. (Over $34 million in bonds to repair athletic and swimming facilities failed.);

• Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD (Tarrant County): $540.9 million to build new school buildings; $20.2 million to purchase new technology. (Over $100 million in bonds to build a new pool and improve its athletic building failed.);

• College Station ISD (Brazos County): $284.975 million for building projects on multiple campuses; $14.145 million for new technology. (Over $50 million in bonds totaling for football, baseball, softball stadiums and facilities failed.);

• Clear Creek ISD (Galveston, Harris counties): $17.5 million in bonds and a VATRE (Voter Approval Tax Rate Election) to fund “day-to-day operations,” $265 million for facilities upgrades and $37 million to purchase new computers;

• Greenwood ISD (Midland County): $198.77 million to build new schools; $87 million to build a new events center;

• Tuloso-Midway ISD (Nueces County): $152 million to build a new junior high school, CTE center, purchase new school buses, and overall maintenance;

• Azle ISD (Parker, Wise counties): $151.5 million bond to modify facilities;

• Lake Travis ISD (Hays, Travis counties): $143 million to build a new 8,000-seat football stadium, a new baseball stadium, a new tennis complex, a new track stadium, a new high school and other facilities;

• Weslaco ISD (Hidalgo County): $140 million for facility improvements. (Over $20 million in bonds for fine arts and athletics facilities improvements failed.);

• Canton ISD (Van Zandt County): nearly $115 million to build a new high school and multi-purpose activity center.

Voters in Utopia ISD and Brackett ISD defeated bond propositions with total debt obligations of $200 million for districts with less than 750 enrolled students combined.

Voters also defeated multi-million-dollar bond propositions in Chapel Hill ISD (Washington County), Cleveland ISD (Harris, Liberty, Montgomery counties), Goose Creek Consolidate ISD (Chambers, Harris counties), and Longview ISD (Gregg County), according to unofficial results.

This list is not exhaustive. This is a developing story.

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