While Ector County residents won’t be surprised to see a tax increase and school bond on their November ballot, they may be shocked when they hear the price tag.
Based on presentations made during Ector County Independent School District’s bond committee meetings as well as recent polling calls, it’s likely that the district will call for a bond in the amount of least $300 million – more than twice the amount of the district’s 2012 bond.
District officials have projected a $17 million budget shortfall for the 2017-2018 school year – pointing to falling property values and an increase in student enrollment as the primary culprits. In order to keep the district out of the red, a tax increase of 13 cents and major budget cuts have been recommended. With a current maintenance and operations tax rate of $1.04 per $100 valuation, a 13-cent increase would mean an M&O tax rate of $1.17 per $100 valuation, or the maximum amount allowed by the state.
Ironically, while many districts may reach for their emergency fund during a downturn, ECISD was forced to almost deplete their reserves as a result of budgeting issues from the last bond.
The $129.75 million bond passed by voters in 2012 went towards the construction of three new elementary schools as well as additions to Permian and Odessa high schools, including a performing art center and tennis courts. The cost of the projects, however, far surpassed the amount approved by voters – leading to the district withdrawing from reserves in order to pay for bond-related projects.
While the amount of the bond has yet to be finalized, district officials have proposed the funds be used for district-wide technology and safety upgrades, the construction of two additional elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school.