Northside ISD voters to decide on record bond proposal
Updated 3:23 pm, Thursday, January 25, 2018
The Northside Independent School District board voted unanimously Tuesday to put a $848.9 million bond on the May 5 ballot — the largest amount of proposed bond debt in the school district’s history.
“It’s a broad impact, a big undertaking,” Northside Superintendent Brian Woods said. “Ranging from paving and drainage to a new magnet school, and every shade in between.”
Renovations and upgrades to all the district’s campuses except for five of its newest ones would take up the bulk of money, at $329.5 million, Woods said. Four new schools — one high school, one middle school and two elementaries — are planned for construction in the western part of the district at a cost of $280.3 million.
For a while, Northside was forced by its booming student population to put most of its bond dollars into building new classrooms, Woods said. But in recent years, “we’ve been able to catch up with that growth and now can dedicate a larger percentage to existing campuses, some of which were built in the ‘50s,” he said.
The district’s “interest and sinking” tax rate, the part of the property tax rate that pays off long-term debt, is currently 33.55 cents per $100. It would increase about 5 cents to an estimated 38.18 cents per $100 at the proposed bond’s peak year of 2025, officials said. The maintenance and operations part of the tax rate is expected to stay at $1.04 per $100, which is what it has been for at least 10 years, Woods said.
Woods noted that residents older than 65 can get a property tax exemption.
School administrators compiled a list of bond projects after surveying the community and weighing the needs against what local residents can reasonably be expected to pay, officials said. In November the list was presented to a 250-member Citizens’ Bond Committee of parents, students, teachers, business owners and other community members.
“All of those different backgrounds give you some wonderful perspective and allows you to have some very lively debates on whether you feel items are necessary or not,’ said Chip Concklin, a leader in one of the committee teams.
Also in the bond package is a plan to add a new magnet program to Marshall High School to offer classes in law enforcement, fire science, and a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.
The new bond would also finalize the school district’s efforts to install bullet-resistant lobbies at every elementary school, as part of $34.7 million for safety and security improvements.
Other items include $85.2 million in infrastructure, $73.8 for technology upgrades, $20.5 million in roofing or waterproofing, $15 million for transportation and $10 million for bond management.
“I understand people looking at the large number and saying ‘Wow, that’s a huge number, how can you spend that money to build Taj Mahal schools?’ And I can tell you honestly they are not Taj Mahal schools,” Concklin said. “Just look at the proposal — most of the money is going into sprinkler systems, roofs, floors, things that are not very sexy. But you know, when a roof goes bad, you’ve got to replace it.”
The last bond in Northside ISD was in 2014, at $648.34 million. Woods said he expects this latest bond to last four years, too.
Early voting for the May 5 city and school district elections begins April 23.