A survey of more than 600 people registered to vote in Texas City ISD elections showed strong support, at least for the individual parts, of a bond proposition the school board is contemplating for a May referendum.
Meanwhile, the amount of debt recommended by a community group comprised of Texas City and La Marque residents, who had been charged with assessing the district’s buildings and infrastructure, was reasonable by today’s standards.
The community group during a meeting Thursday recommended Texas City public school trustees call a $135.9 million bond proposition.
Almost $136 million is a lot of money, and can sound like even more if you don’t spend a lot of time reading about what it costs to build things these days. The number is fairly modest, though, in context of the capital projects the committee recommended and compared to other districts.
Clear Creek ISD, for example, last year passed a bond of $487 million. It’s a much larger and faster-growing district, of course, but that substantial bond issue was only the most recent. The district also passed: $162 million in 2000; $337 million in 2003; $264 million in 2004; $183 million in 2007; and $367 million in 2013.
Dickinson ISD, which, at about 11,000 students, is closer in size to Texas City’s student population of 9,000 or so, also has invested considerable amounts into capital improvements — $107.5 million in 2007; $56 million in 2014; and $70 million last year.
Our point is that building and maintaining the facilities and support systems needed for an adequate, much less excellent, public school system is expensive.
Consider that Galveston ISD trustees last week called a May bond referendum seeking $31 million. That also is a lot of money, but would pay for only the most crucial of about $65 million in repairs needed at district facilities. Galveston public school trustees already are working on a second, larger bond proposition for later this year or next.
The bottom line is school districts, and the communities they serve, can either make periodical capital investment in their facilities or they can allow those facilities to fall apart.
As with all things, community leaders in Texas City have been extremely fiscally conservative about issuing debt. The district asked for and got $39.75 million in 2000, and $122.5 million in 2007. That’s about as close to the bone as you can do it.
Had the school district experienced nothing but normal wear and tear in the 10 years since 2007, it still would have been about time to call a bond vote.
The past couple of those years haven’t been typical, of course. The district has assumed responsibility for facilities in the former La Marque ISD and is dealing with the consequences of a historical flood.
In our view, calling a bond proposition isn’t only right and reasonable, it was inevitable and inescapable.
The only real questions are whether the board will seek the whole $135.9 million or some amount less than that; and what effect that number will have on the tax rate property owners in the district must pay.
We argue that even the recommended $135.9 million would be reasonable and wouldn’t drive up the tax rate past what the public can absorb.
• Michael A. Smith