Despite organized opposition, Clear Creek Independent School District voters widely approved a $487 million bond issue meant to address overcrowding at several schools and finance needed improvements.
“It’s a strong victory for the kids,” Superintendent Greg Smith said. “Anytime you take children and can put them into facilities where there is a welcoming environment and an opportunity to flourish, it’s a good day for the kids. The kids win today.”
At the same time voters approved the massive bond, they ousted the longest-serving member of the district’s board of trustees, Ken Baliker, in favor of newcomer Arturo Sanchez.
According to complete but unofficial returns, 63.59 percent of voters approved the bond to 36.41 percent voting against it.
In total, 7,469 voted for it to 4,277 against, a margin of 3,192 votes.
Complete but unofficial returns had Sanchez winning with 1,923 votes to Baliker’s 1,040.
Sanchez was elected with 64.9 percent of the vote to Baliker’s 35.1 percent.
Early voters tipped a huge advantage toward the bond’s passage with a total of 5,408 early and mail-in ballots voting for the bond, about 69 percent, while 2,412 voted against it, a margin of 2,996 votes.
“At the end of the day, a 64 percent approval rating is a good day for the integrity of the school district,” Smith said.
Sanchez attributed his win to his desire to get out and meet the voters of District 3.
“We knew it was important in a bond election year to do all we could to make sure folks knew they had a choice,” Sanchez said. “For the first time in 10 years, there was an additional candidate running for school board.
“I was hopeful, but you can never underestimate running for a position with a 10-year incumbent.”
The bond issue will add 3.5 cents to the district’s tax rate, an increase of $5.47 a month in taxes, or $65.64 a year, on property around the median value, which is $223,635 for a single-family home, according to the district. It will cover building a new elementary school in League City, rebuilding two schools, expanding others and making other improvements.
Proponents of the bond argued that the money was necessary to keep up with the district’s growth and renovate some older campuses.
More than 41,250 students are enrolled in Clear Creek ISD schools this year, an 8.7 percent increase over the 37,960 students attending during the 2009-2010 school year. The district projects, by 2026, the student population will grow another 9.58 percent to 45,206.
Shortly after the bond issue was called, opposition formed around a political action committee called Citizens for CCISD, which argued the bond would put the district $2.1 billion in debt and that corporate interests were driving the issue.
District officials have disputed the committee’s debt figures.
The district’s total debt service from 2017 to 2045 will come to more than $2.1 billion, according to a district “schedule of debt” chart, but that doesn’t mean the district would be $2 billion in debt, district spokeswoman Elaina Polsen said.
The district will gradually sell bonds at about $162.3 million a year for three years while simultaneously paying off debt at a rate of $34 million to about $77 million a year, she said. Bond debt for the proposed $487 million bond program is structured to be paid off over 24 years.
Bond opponents conceded the loss, but said their movement was not over.
“We were hoping it wouldn’t pass, but we had a rationale why,” said Dale Huls, president of Citizens for CCISD. “We wanted to get the word out and I think we did do that. The whole point of governance is to have the citizenship engaged. While we were not successful in stopping the bond, we were successful at activating citizens to listen to our arguments and oppose the bond.”