Clear Creek ISD is no stranger to school bonds and crippling debt. In 2004 and 2007, the district passed bonds amounting to $264 and $183 million respectively. Most recently, a $367 million bond was passed in 2013, which the district is still in the process of paying off.
Now, a $487 million bond on the May 6 ballot is garnering significant opposition from conservative activists and community leaders. Citing the district’s staggering debt and other concerns, many voters are hesitant to assume even more debt.
In all, CCISD currently has nearly $1.2 billion in debt. Skeptics of the new bond point out that while it is being sold to taxpayers as $487 million, it would actually end up being $912 million when interest is included, adding up to a grand total of $2.1 billion in debt for CCISD.
Although current bond debt will not be paid off until 2045, CCISD officials are planning to pass yet another bond in three to five years. There are over $700 million worth of projects listed on the board’s “wish list,” leading many to wonder if the district’s cycle of spending and debt will ever end.
Also of note is the prodigious amount of waste in the proposed bond. With the May 6 bond, CCISD is utilizing the highly irresponsible, but unfortunately common, practice of using bonds to pay for a myriad of small maintenance projects. A significant portion of the $487 million will go towards items such as new and upgraded computers for administrators, upgrading projectors, new athletic equipment, and other short term expenses.
Using bonds that take decades to pay off to fund short term maintenance, equipment, and upgrades, which will wear out again or become obsolete within just a few years, is akin to a private citizen going to the bank and asking for a 30-year loan to pay for something like car repairs or a new appliance.
The new bond also allocates $2.65 million to playground improvements, which the PTA has previously handled. The PTA is currently sitting on $30,000, which it had planned to spend on playgrounds, but now that the bond will pay for playground upgrades, the PTA president said they will spend the money on other “enhancements” such as “sun shades and more seating.”
Concerned by the reckless spending and debt exhibited by the bond proposal, the Republican Party of Galveston County, much of which is in CCISD, decided to take action and unanimously passed a resolution condemning the current bond.
In addition to citing concerns over debt, the resolution notes the low turnout that is typical of May elections, and asks that the bond be moved to the November general election so more voters have the opportunity to weigh in. The resolution also expresses concern about “rolling polling,” movable polling locations which they believe could be used by the district to target voters favorable to the bond.
The resolution concludes:
“BE IT RESOLVED that the Galveston County Republican Party rejects the current $487M bond proposal and asks CCISD to postpone the May 6, 2017 bond election and resubmit a more transparent and fiscally accountable bond in November”
K. C. Broyles, the author of the resolution, recounted that precinct chairs in CCISD shared accounts of abuse and waste in past bonds during the meeting. He also noted that the “executive body was emotionally outraged” over the bond issue.