More than 100 Texas school districts have put a combined $25 billion in school bond debt on the May 6 ballot. All of the debt would have to be repaid, with interest, by local property taxpayers.
Texas school districts already owe $104 billion in outstanding debt that local residents are obligated to repay with property taxes.
Any new debt approved by voters will be added on top of current debt levels.
Some school officials claim their new bond debt won’t raise taxes because the school district doesn’t plan to increase its property tax rate right away. Yet as property values rise, property owners’ tax bills increase even if the rate stays the same—a tax increase.
And regardless of the rate, borrowing and spending money that must be repaid with property taxes necessarily increases local property tax burdens.
To make that clear to voters, the state passed a law in 2019 requiring school bond ballot propositions to include the statement “THIS IS A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE.”
Since then, school district officials have blamed the new ballot language for fewer bonds passing, and they’re now lobbying lawmakers to change it.
In 2022, voters approved a total of $35 billion in school bonds.
This spring’s school bond propositions range in size from $300,000 for new computers in Port Aransas ISD to $1.67 billion for school buildings in Northwest ISD—the largest single bond on the May ballot.
Four ISDs are asking for individual bonds topping a billion dollars: Northwest, Denton ($1.3 billion), Fort Bend ($1.16 billion), and Garland ($1.1 billion).
Northwest ISD is also asking for a $301.5 million bond to build three new football stadiums.
Bonds for financing athletic and recreational facilities must be voted on separately, which is why many districts have multiple propositions on the ballot.
Northwest ISD’s three-bond package totaling $1.99 billion is the largest in the state. Property taxpayers in the Denton County district currently owe $1.35 billion in bond debt principal ($2 billion with interest).
It’s up to local voters to decide if proposed bonds are purchasing items necessary for their students’ education and whether they represent a good value for taxpayers in the community.
Below is a list of school districts with bond propositions on the May 6 ballot, based on data from the Texas Bond Review Board. Early voting runs April 24 through May 2.