In the upcoming May election, the Leander ISD community will vote on a $762.82 million school bond aimed at modernizing facilities, school security, and addressing maintenance needs. Amid misconceptions about the bond and potential school closures, this article clarifies the bond's purpose, its impact on taxes, and how it will benefit the entire district.
By David Barnes, Ed.D.
In May, the Leander ISD community (#1LISD) will vote on a $762.82 million school bond election to modernize various school buildings, remodel the oldest high school, and address additional maintenance needs. This article aims to clarify misconceptions about the bond and projected school repurposing in the southern areas of the district.
Contrary to a common misconception, the cause of repurposing school buildings in the southern areas of the district is unrelated to the bond—the repurposing results from a demographic study and a decreasing student population in those areas. With or without the bond, underutilizing school buildings means that the district must shutter the schools. With the bond, the district will have the option to repurpose them; without the bond, the district may have to sell the buildings. Selling old school buildings depends on market conditions. It introduces uncertainty as the building may result in undesirable uses that could negatively impact the surrounding community.
In contrast, the northern portions of the district have experienced a population boom over the past three years. Communities, overall, support this bond to provide modernized schools, improved security features, and enhanced internet network technologies for their expanding student populations.
In fact, the bond addresses the needs of both areas. It allows for repurposing schools in the southern regions into administrative buildings, should population trends continue, thus enabling efficient use of resources. Additionally, the bond provides funding for modernizing and enhancing schools in all areas of the district to accommodate the growing student population.
Here are some other misconceptions about school bonds.
All school district bonds are a tax rate increase.
Not all school district bonds result in a tax rate increase. In fact, numerous districts can issue bonds without raising the school district tax rate. This misconception is often exacerbated by the recent legislative mandate to include the phrase "This is a property tax increase" on every ballot proposition, which can mislead voters into believing that all bonds will lead to increased taxes.
Regardless of this bond's outcome, the Leander ISD tax rate will remain unchanged. Continued growth in the district's tax base will allow the funding of projects with the existing debt service tax rate of 33 cents per $100 property valuation.
If the district has had a recent bond election, they shouldn’t need another one.
In numerous rapidly growing districts, bond elections might be required every few years to accommodate the expanding student population. For instance, a typical elementary school would be filled by 800 new students. This influx not only creates a demand for more facilities, but also necessitates additional buses, devices, desks, chairs, and other essential equipment to support the growing student body.
School districts shouldn’t carry debt.
It's not accurate to say that school districts should be debt-free. In Texas, the majority of school districts incur debt through bond elections, as this is their primary means of financing new school construction, renovations for older campuses, replacement of costly life-cycle systems, and other capital projects.
Stakeholders and Positions:
Bond advocates point out that central and northern district communities have experienced population growth. The schools need modernization, improved security, and enhanced internet network technologies. Anti-bond advocates consist of anti-tax and anti-public-school factions, arguing that the bond increases the school's debt and expressing distrust in the public school system. Some opponents claim that schools promote sexually explicit material to children and believe voting against the bond signals displeasure with recent school governance.
The Bond's Purpose:
The primary goal of the bond is to modernize school buildings, remodel the district's oldest high school, and complete other maintenance projects not approved in the previous bond without increasing the tax rate on district property owners. Voting for the bond invests in children's future and ensures up-to-date, learning-conducive educational facilities. By voting for the bond, the community will enable the following:
Safety & Security Projects at Every Campus:
Upgrades include new and replaced cameras, exterior layers, alert systems, digital mapping, automatically locking door handles, and network firewalls to protect against cyber-attacks.
Renovated & New Schools:
Maintenance and modernization projects at numerous district schools, construction of two new elementary schools, and the design of a new facility for LISD's Early College High School.
Replacement of Devices & Infrastructure:
Installation of interactive flat panels in every classroom, network updates, replacement of technological devices, new band instruments, a new transportation hub to serve southern LISD, and replacement of some buses and vans.
The bond is divided into three propositions:
Prop A: $698.33 million for school facilities, including two new elementary schools, land purchases for future facilities, safety and security projects, renovations and modernization projects, and new school buses and vehicles for district operations.
Prop B: $50.82 million for technology equipment and infrastructure, such as device replacement for students and staff, and computer network projects.
Prop C: $13.67 million for renovations to Don Tew Performing Arts Center and South Performing Arts Center.
Recent Developments and Influences:
Since the state began requiring "This is a property tax increase" on ballots after 2019, school bond approval rates across Texas have dropped from 74% to 46%. This requirement has been proven to mislead voters, as the bond will not increase tax rates for district property owners. A large anti-public-school faction seeks to defeat this bond, as they did in November of 2021. It must be noted that the previous bond's failure made the district's maintenance repair needs much more urgent.
April 24th: Start of Early Voting
May 2nd: End of Early Voting
May 6th: Election Day
Register to vote by April 6th, 2023, if you want to participate in this election.
As the Leander ISD school bond election approaches, local community members must understand the bond's purpose and how the funds will be used. The bond does not cause school closures; it aims to modernize and improve our schools without increasing the tax burden on property owners. By understanding the positions of different stakeholders and considering recent developments, voters can make informed decisions that will impact the future of our Leander Independent School District.
David Barnes, Ed.D.
David Barnes is a teacher in the Leander Independent School District. As an educational reformer, leader, and advocate with over 27 years of military service. He is devoted to the student's freedom to learn and the pursuit of their dreams.
Huckabee, S. M. (2023). How to clarify misconceptions and gain trust for school bonds. Texas Association of School Boards. https://www.tasb.org/members/enhance-district/gain-trust-school-bonds/
Leander Independent School District. (2023). Bond 2023. Leander ISD. https://www.leanderisd.org/bond2023/
Swartz, M. (2023, February 17). The campaign to sabotage Texas’s public schools. Texas Monthly. https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/campaign-to-sabotage-texas-public-schools/
Roberts, M. L. (2022, February). School bond support wavers in Texas. Texas Association of School Boards. https://www.tasb.org/members/enhance-district/school-bond-support/