Despite years of declining student enrollment that are projected to continue for the foreseeable future, Plano Independent School District officials are asking voters to approve $1.5 billion in new bond debt that must be repaid with interest by local property taxpayers. A separate property tax increase is also on the November ballot.
A bond-boosting group called Friends of Plano ISD created a website and Facebook page, urging residents to vote for all five of Plano ISD’s ballot propositions:
- Prop A: Voter Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE)
- Prop B: $1.17 Billion Bond for School Renovations and Safety ($1.9 Billion with interest)
- Prop C: $173 Million Bond for Instructional Technology ($280 million with interest)
- Prop D: $130 Million Bond for an Event Center ($210 million with interest)
- Prop E: $19 Million Bond for Stadium Safety and Maintenance ($31 million with interest)
The pro-bond group is raising money for the website, signs, and other promotional materials through a political action committee, Friends of PISD PAC.
The PAC was originally formed to promote the district’s 2016 bond.
Recent campaign finance reports show Friends of PISD had raised $12,750 to promote the 2022 bonds as of October 10.
The bond boosters’ top donor—contributing $10,000—is Cadence McShane, a Dallas-based construction company specializing in education buildings and renovations.
Former Plano ISD Superintendent Sara Bonser donated $1,000. At the time of her retirement earlier this year, Bonser’s annual salary was more than $300,000.
Plano-based Kehr Wireless Technologies also kicked in $1,000.
Cinclair Law, the company of bond “task force” co-chair Rick Cinclair, gave the PAC $500.
Eric and Kelley Jo Thomas donated $250. Kelley is a vice president with the Texas PTA
The PAC treasurer is Ken Hutchenrider, president of Methodist Richardson Medical Center, a past president of the Plano ISD Foundation, and a former Richardson City Council member.
According to the PAC’s Facebook page, State Rep. Jeff Leach (R–Allen) also backs the bond and tax rate propositions, which will increase residents’ property tax burdens.
Yet earlier this month, Leach told members of a local Republican women’s club, “We have to attack property taxes… You deserve substantial property tax relief.”
As with all school bonds, taxpayers in Plano ISD are picking up the tab for most of the materials pushing the proposed property tax increases.
Besides “informational” web pages and videos produced by the district, Plano residents have reported receiving mailers and robocalls promoting the tax increase and bonds.
Texas Scorecard has requested information from the district detailing how much taxpayer money they’ve spent on marketing the new property tax burdens to voters, including for bond-promotion consultants (often provided by construction companies that stand to benefit from the bonds).
Plano ISD taxpayers are already on the hook for $619 million in outstanding bond debt principal and interest. With interest, Plano ISD’s proposed 2022 school bonds will cost local taxpayers another $2.4 billion.
Who will benefit, besides construction contractors?
Instead of students, Friends of Plano ISD says the propositions are “critical” to “employers” and for attracting new companies to the area:
“The 2022 bond measure is critical to workforce development and attraction efforts, as well as maintaining the high educational standards we need in the region to remain competitive for jobs,” according to the pro-bond group:
The five bond propositions, including the VATRE (Prop A), is [sic] key to our community’s growth and workforce development. It’s necessary to grow talent and have supply for the many companies that continue to move [sic] the region.
One proposed project that would be a definite drag on the district, according to former Plano ISD Trustee Yoram Solomon, is the “unaffordable” $130 million event center in Proposition D. In addition to construction costs ($210 million with interest), he said maintaining the facility would have a negative impact on the budget and “the district knows it.”
“It’s for our ego, at the expense of our students and our teachers,” Solomon said.
Plano ISD voters will ultimately decide which, if any, of the proposals are worth the added expense to taxpayers.
Early voting is underway now through November 4. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.
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