Op/Ed by Fran Rhodes
On Election Day this year, November 5, Keller ISD residents will find a bond proposal on their ballots. The District is proposing to add $315 Million in new debt to their already large debt obligation of $1 BILLION plus.
SOME BASICS ABOUT THE BOND PROPOSAL
1) The bond projects will impact all 42 schools in the district including:
- Safety & Security Upgrades District-Wide
- Mechanical & Life Safety Upgrades District-Wide
- Technology Upgrades District-Wide
- Complete RE-BUILD (replacement) of 4 existing Elementary Schools
- Additions & Renovations to 2 Middle Schools
- FOUR new indoor extracurricular program facilities at each of the 4 high schools
- NEW industrial trades and agri-science Center
2) The tax rate for retiring debt (I&S rate) will remain the same. HOWEVER – your tax bill will still go up due to rising property values. No tax RATE increase is not the same thing as no tax BILL increase!
3) Most importantly, the district already has over $1 Billion in outstanding debt obligations. Of that amount, $700,000 is principle, and this bond will bring the total principle to over $1 Billion. Furthermore, the current debt principal represents over $20,000 of debt per student. Adding this bond will bring the per student debt to nearly $30,000. In looking at comparisons with districts of about the same size or larger than KISD, this debt per student number is higher than average. We are putting a huge burden of debt on our future generations in Keller ISD.
4) While the current debt obligation is scary enough, we know that there are plans for a 2nd and 3rd bond in the coming years, adding a total of $1.2 Billion to the current debt obligation. We should also keep in mind that if property values should decline, the district will likely be required to raise the I&S rate to keep up with bond payments. They are counting on property values going up. Just a year ago, the district asked for a Tax Rate Election, also known as the “swap and drop”. At that time, we were told that the lowered I&S rate was sufficient to cover construction and expansion plans for the next 10 years. What they did not tell us is that the new rate was planned to support even more additional debt – thus a new bond election this year.
5) The District Bond Committee chose to make this bond election an all or nothing proposition. You either vote FOR the entire $315 million, or AGAINST the entire $315 million. There is no option to vote for some projects, and against others.
6) This bond is not the result of enrollment growth. Enrollment in the KISD has been slowing over the past few years, and district projections put growth at less than 100 students per year by the year 2023/24. The bond proposal does not accommodate any additional enrollment volume, just new buildings and new facilities.
NEEDS VS WANTS
Here’s the bottom line – supporters of this bond will say these things are needed “for the children”, and “this is an investment in the future of the District”. But do we really need FOUR NEW indoor athletic fields? While trades and agri-sciences are great things to be teaching, do we really need a whole new building for it? Is it really necessary to completely rebuild 4 elementary schools? I’m sure some of the projects in this proposal are necessary upgrades, but let’s face it – some of them are just wish list items that are not necessary or relevant to quality education of children. We have also not been told what will be the future cost of maintenance and staffing for the new facilities proposed. Once you build a building, and pay off the debt for it, the expenses keep coming. It’s not a one-time deal, and those future expenses will come out of the M&O budget.
HOW WILL THIS BOND IMPACT KISD FAMILIES?
Let’s talk for a moment about what the constant increases in property taxes are doing to KISD families. When a tax bill goes up, families have to find a way to pay for it. Maybe it means not eating out, or going to the movies once in a while. Or maybe it means the kids can no longer have piano lessons, or participate in sports. Who knows? Families have to make tough choices and sacrifices in order to stay within their budgets and taxing entities ought to do the same.
Don’t be fooled by the “no increase in the tax rate” statements from the district. By keeping the rate the same, your tax bill will rise. AND…. If this bond does not pass, the district could conceivably LOWER the rate, giving taxpayers some relief. We don’t know that they would, but they could.
IT’S OK TO SAY NO!
Families are considered stronger when they are spending less than they earn and have little or no debt. A stronger school district spends within its means, carries little to no debt and asks its voters for the lowest taxes possible. Let’s make Keller ISD and its families stronger together. Let’s say NO to the bond!
If you could help with the effort to get the word out about opposition to this bond, please come to a public meeting on Thursday, Oct 3, at Tio Carlos Restaurant in Keller, at 6:00 pm, or email me at [email protected], and I’ll direct you to ways you can help.
God bless Texas!
President, True Texas Project