On November 5, Keller ISD residents will find a bond proposal on their ballots. The district is proposing to add $315 million in new debt to their already large debt of over $1 BILLION, hiking your tax bills while student enrollment growth is slowing.
SOME BASICS ABOUT THE BOND
Here’s the bottom line—supporters of this bond will say these things are needed “for the children,” and “this is an investment in the future of the district.” I’m sure some of the projects in this proposal are necessary upgrades, but let’s face it—some of them are just wish list items that are not necessary or relevant to the quality education of children.
1) The bond will impact all 42 schools in the district, including:
- Safety & security upgrades district-wide
- Mechanical & life safety upgrades district-wide
- Technology upgrades district-wide
- Complete RE-BUILD (replacement) of four existing elementary schools
- Additions & renovations to two middle schools
- FOUR new indoor extracurricular program facilities at each of the four high schools
- NEW industrial trades and agri-science center
Is it really necessary to completely rebuild four elementary schools? While trades and agri-sciences are great things to be teaching, do we really need a whole new building for it? Do we really need FOUR NEW indoor athletic fields?
We have also not been told what will be the future cost of maintenance and staffing for the new facilities. Once you build a building and pay off the debt for it, the expenses keep coming; it’s not a one-time deal, and those future expenses will come out of our Maintenance & Operations taxes.
2) The tax rate for retiring debt (Interest & Sinking rate) will remain the same. HOWEVER, your tax bill will still go up due to rising property values. Not increasing your tax RATE is not the same thing as not increasing your tax BILL! For tax bills to stay the same, the tax RATE must be lowered enough to offset increases in property values. For tax bills to go down, the tax RATE must be lowered even further.
3) Most importantly, the district already has over $1 billion in outstanding debt obligations. Of that amount, $700,000 is the principle and represents over $20,000 of debt per student. This bond will bring the total principle to over $1 billion, bringing the per-student debt to nearly $30,000.
In looking at comparisons with districts of about the same size or larger than KISD, this debt-per-student number is higher than average. We are putting a huge burden of debt on our future generations in Keller ISD.
4) While the current debt obligation is scary enough, we know that there are plans for a second and third bond in the coming years, adding a total of $1.2 billion to our current debt.
Just a year ago, the district asked for a Tax Rate Election, also known as the “swap and drop.” At that time, we were told that the lowered I&S tax rate was sufficient to cover construction and expansion plans for the next 10 years. What they did not tell us is that the new rate was planned to support even more additional debt—thus, a new bond election this year.
We should also keep in mind that if property values should decline—something the district isn’t counting on—the I&S tax rate will likely be raised to keep up with bond payments.
5) The District Bond Committee chose to make this bond election an all-or-nothing proposition; you either vote FOR the entire $315 million or AGAINST the entire $315 million. There is no option to vote for some projects and against others.
6) This bond is not the result of enrollment growth. Enrollment in KISD has been slowing over the past few years, and district projections put growth at less than 100 students per year by the year 2023/24. The bond proposal does not accommodate any additional enrollment volume—just new buildings and new facilities.
HOW WILL THIS BOND IMPACT KISD FAMILIES?
Don’t be fooled by the “no-increase-in-the-tax-rate” statements from the district. By keeping the rate the same, your tax bill will rise. When a tax bill goes up, families have to find a way to pay for it. Families have to make tough choices and sacrifices to stay within their budgets; taxing entities ought to do the same.
If this bond does not pass, the district could conceivably LOWER the rate, giving taxpayers some relief.
IT’S OK TO SAY NO!
A stronger school district spends within its means, carries little to no debt, and asks its voters for the lowest taxes possible. Let’s make Keller ISD and its families stronger together. Let’s say NO to the bond!
If you could help with the effort to get the word out about opposition to this bond, please come to a public meeting on Thursday, October 3, at Tio Carlos Restaurant in Keller at 6:00 p.m., or email me at [email protected], and I’ll direct you to ways you can help.
God bless Texas!
This is a commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to [email protected].