A $2.8 billion bond package put on the November ballot by Prosper Independent School District will cost local property taxpayers a whopping $5 billion with interest, if voters approve the lavish spending plans that include a half-billion dollar high school and the most expensive football stadium in Texas history.
Prosper ISD property taxpayers already owe $2.6 billion in school bond debt principal and interest.
Voter Information Documents reveal the true cost of Prosper ISD’s proposed bonds and the current debt burden on district taxpayers.
The district is required by state law to publish the documents.
However, the information is not prominently displayed on the bond website created by the district.
Nor has the full cost of the bonds with interest been featured in any of the promotional mailers, flyers, signs, robocalls, videos, or emails produced and distributed by Prosper ISD—all at taxpayers’ expense.
Many residents are not only shocked at the proposed spending they see as “grossly excessive” even by Prosper ISD standards, they are also put off by the district’s relentless bond marketing campaign. Some accuse bond proponents of trying to “strong-arm” and “emotionally blackmail” voters with threats of service cuts if bonds are not approved.
“This isn’t about the kids at all,” said one Prosper parent bombarded with pro-bond messages. “It’s about the ego of this district.”
Residents are also concerned about the district’s lack of transparency regarding past bond spending. Prosper ISD took weeks to respond to a public information request about the costs of the district’s new Walnut Grove campus, called “the most luxurious high school in the world.” Their preliminary estimate for the ongoing construction is $239 million.
Bonds on the Ballot
Prosper ISD divided its spending plans into four separate ballot propositions:
Prop A: $2.4 billion – $4.5 billion with interest
For: New construction (including a $500 million high school), updates to existing facilities, land for future schools, security and technology upgrades, and buses.
Prop B: $140 million – $151 million with interest
For: New technology devices for students, teachers, and staff.
Prop C: $102 million – $188 million with interest
For: New $94 million football stadium and upgrades to other athletic facilities.
Prop D: $125 million – $230 million with interest
For: Performing Arts Center.
“The cost estimates seem kind of crazy,” said a resident at one of the sparsely attended information sessions hosted by the district. A school official said the projected costs include a 15-percent “inflationary factor.”
A committee selected and facilitated by district officials recommended the spending plans, and school board trustees unanimously approved the recommendations.
Despite the $5 billion price tag, the bond package does not include a sixth high school that the district expects to need when the area is built out.
All school bond propositions include language authorizing districts to collect property taxes “without limit as to rate or amount, to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds.”
Texas law requires school districts to highlight the tax impact by also including language on the ballot stating “THIS IS A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE.”
Prosper ISD notes that the tax rate used to repay debt will not increase if the bond passes because the district already imposes the maximum debt tax rate allowed by state law ($0.50 per $100 valuation), but the dollar amount of those taxes will increase as taxpayers’ property values rise.
The district also says it will not decrease the debt tax rate if the bonds fail to pass because it needs to keep collecting the maximum amount of tax revenue allowed by law to repay existing debt.
Regardless of whether the tax rate changes when a bond first passes, all bond debt increases the local property tax burden by the bond amount plus interest. Thus, all bonds are property tax increases.
The district’s 2019 bond, valued at $1.3 billion before interest, received approval from 85 percent of local voters.
Prosper ISD’s 2023 bond package is the largest on Texans’ ballots, but dozens of school districts, cities, and counties across the state are proposing big bonds that could add billions to the local government debt already owed by Texas property taxpayers.
Early voting runs October 23 through November 3. Election Day is Tuesday, November 7.