With early voting underway in local elections across Texas, school districts are asking voters to approve a total of $25 billion in spending that would be financed by property tax-backed bonds.

In Fort Bend Independent School District, voters are being asked to approve $1.26 billion in new bond debt, all of which would have to be repaid with local property taxes.

With interest, Fort Bend ISD property taxpayers would be on the hook for $2.6 billion—double the dollar amount shown on the ballot.

Fort Bend ISD already owes $2.3 billion in outstanding debt principal and interest, meaning local property taxpayers owe $2.3 billion.

If the district’s bond propositions pass, they will double the amount that local residents and businesses must repay through property taxes.

Details about the true cost of the bonds are shown on Voter Information Documents (linked below for each proposition).

The documents are required by law but hidden away on district websites, unlike their splashy pro-bond web pages, and the information is not shown on voters’ ballots.

School districts are required to include a tax impact statement on ballot propositions that reads “THIS IS A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE.”

However, some school officials dispute that bonds repaid with property taxes are a tax increase.

Yet as State Rep. Brian Harrison (R–Midlothian) noted last week, buildings and other items purchased with borrowed bond money are not free.

“Taxes are higher than if there was no bond,” Harrison said during debate over proposed legislation to weaken the tax impact statement on school bond ballots. “So, every bond effectively is a tax increase.”

State Rep. Jacey Jetton (R–Richmond), whose Texas House district includes part of Fort Bend ISD, said in a message to constituents that the $1.26 billion bond package ($2.6 billion with interest) is “part of the board’s longer term plans to take some fiscally conservative steps.”

“It’s a win for everyone,” he said.

Voters will decide if the bond spending is a win for local parents and taxpayers.

Proposition A
For: School buildings, renovations, buses
Principal: $1.2 billion
Interest: $1.3 billion
Total Cost to Taxpayers: $2.5 billion

Proposition B
For: Technology
Principal: $52 million
Interest: $8 million
Total Cost to Taxpayers: $60 million

Proposition C
For: Natatorium
Principal: $23 million
Interest: $27 million
Total Cost to Taxpayers: $50 million

Fort Bend ISD is one of more than 100 Texas school districts with bond propositions on the May ballot.

Early voting in the bond elections is Monday, April 24, through Tuesday, May 2. Election Day is Saturday, May 6.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.