$160.5 million bond proposal affects students at all levels - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

$160.5 million bond proposal affects students at all levels

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BOND ELECTION: $160.5 million bond proposal affects students at all levels

Starting Monday, Tyler ISD voters can weigh in on a $160.5 million bond proposal for projects affecting students from elementary through high school.

These include the construction of a career and technical education center, the construction of three middle schools: Boulter, Moore and one in southwest Tyler; and the completion of upgrades at Rice and Dixie elementary schools.

Supporters have said the projects will improve security and safety for teachers and students, reduce the number of portables and provide a career training ground for high school students to put them on a fast track into the workforce.

Opponents, on the other hand, consider passing this bond proposal a misstep for a district that has demonstrated consistent academic underachievement, disciplinary problems and poor teacher support.

They have said the district needs to address these issues first before building new facilities that will cost taxpayers money.

With nothing else on the ballot, both sides are working to get the word out so that people will vote. TISD Superintendent Gary Mooring said this bond proposal represents advancing a facility plan that has been in place for years.

"We fulfill the promise that the board has made to the public ... (in that) we're finishing up the elementary (schools) and starting on the secondary ..." he said. "We're affecting high schools, middle schools and elementary and we're doing it without affecting the tax rate."




The bond package would allow the school district to complete work on the elementary schools, start work on its middle schools and address some of the needs at its high schools. With the 2004 and 2008 bonds, the district replaced most of the other elementary schools with new schools, renovated Birdwell and Owens, and built Jack Elementary. 

With this bond proposal, the school board opted to renovate Rice and Dixie, instead of building new schools, because both are 35 years old. In addition, the money saved through this decision allowed the district to add other projects to the bond proposal. 

Rice has capacity for almost 670 students and has four portable buildings. The proposed work will cost an estimated $16 million and expand the campus' functional capacity to 800 students.

The Dixie campus has a capacity of more than 550 students and has 15 portable buildings. The new facility will cost an estimated $16.5 million and serve up to 800 students.

At the middle school level, Moore MST Magnet School is 58 years old, and the Boulter campus is 54 years old.

Built to serve about 780 students, Moore has more than 920 students and 24 portable classrooms. Boulter was built to serve about 700 students and has 575. It has 12 portable classrooms.

In the bond proposal, both schools, plus the one to be built in southwest Tyler, would be constructed to serve a functional capacity of 1,000 students and cost an estimated $31.5 million each, according to district information.

The district's aim in the long-run is to operate fewer, larger middle schools because it is more economically and programmatically efficient. Mooring has said that larger schools typically offer a greater variety of courses and programs for students. And fewer buildings means less operational expenses.

The career and technical education center would be built to serve up to 400 high school students at a time.

The facility would cost an estimated $33.5 million to build and would be located near the TJC West Campus at the corner of Earl Campbell Parkway and Bennett Avenue.

All career and technical education programs would be housed at this campus and taken off the high school campuses with that space repurposed for other uses.



TISD's chief financial officer Tosha Bjork said total payback for this bond proposal would be an estimated $248.4 million, likely over 30 years.

This would include $160.5 million in principal and an estimated $87.9 million in interest. This assumes a 3.27 percent interest rate, Ms. Bjork said by phone.

TISD's current tax rate is $1.375 per $100 valuation. This rate is made up of $1.04 for maintenance and operations and 33.5 cents for debt service, the latter of which supports bond payments.

If voters approve the bond proposal, the debt service rate would remain the same for the next two years, 2014 and 2015, before dropping in 2016, Ms. Bjork said. It would drop again in 2024 and beyond. 

This assumes the district does not take on any additional debt in the coming years or that property tax values do not decline.

For the average TISD homeowner, this would mean a 2013 tax bill of about $1,693 for a home valued at $138,162. Although the tax rate would be unchanged this year's average home value is higher than last year.

The 2013 tax bill would be almost $1,169 for a $100,000 home, the same as last year. Both of these calculations include a $15,000 homestead exemption.

If voters reject the bond proposal, the district would drop the tax rate this year, which would be reflected on people's 2013 tax bill


Ms. Bjork said the exact decrease is unknown at this time because it will be based on property values and the district's desire to pay off some of its remaining debt.

The district's bond debt right now goes through 2034. Most of them are 20-year bonds. Ms. Bjork said that if this bond proposal passes, the district likely would go out for 30-year bonds, in part to help maintain the existing tax rate. 

In all, TISD has about $175 million in existing debt from the 2004 and 2008 bonds. There is an additional almost $92 million in future interest payments, Ms. Bjork said. The district borrowed almost $221 million in all for both of those bonds.

Ms. Bjork said that although there will be no tax rate increase if this bond proposal passes, if a person's home value increases, they likely would see an increase in their taxes.
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