Dallas Independent School District (DISD) plans to place a referendum on the November ballot that would nearly double the district’s debt load by incurring $3.7 billion in additional bonds.
This would be the most expensive bond proposal in Texas history.
“This Fall, Dallas ISD will ask voters to approve a $3.7 billion bond package to finance capital improvements, including a focus on racial equity,” the district said in a presentation on Monday.
In January, DISD’s Citizens Bond Steering Committee explored the possibility of less costly bond propositions, but recently the school district chose to move forward with the most expensive option on the table.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told the DISD Board of Trustees that even though the district is facing changing economic circumstances, schools needed to be modernized and that now was a good time to authorize the $3.7 billion option because construction costs and interest rates are low.
The new bond package would add to the billions of dollars the district already owes.
In fact, the school district has not even finished selling the $1.6 billion in bonds authorized by voters in a 2015 referendum.
As of the end of Fiscal Year 2019, DISD taxpayers were $3.8 billion in debt, 34 percent of which was interest on $2.5 billion in outstanding principal, per the Texas Bond Review Board.
At the workshop on Monday, Leslie Williams, deputy chief of DISD’s Racial Equity Office, emphasized the office’s prioritization of correcting “historical disinvestment” in racial minority neighborhoods.
“Tonight, we’re excited, I mean very excited, to launch the first of three community workshops where we will begin to right the wrongs of the past by collaborating to develop school community hubs, places where students and their families can access support to realize their greatest potential,” Williams said.
71 percent of DISD students are Hispanic, 21 percent are African American, five percent are Caucasian, one percent are of Asian, Hawaiian, or Native American descent, and two percent are multiracial, according to the district’s statistics.
The bonds would mature after 30 years, meaning that a child entering kindergarten in the coming academic year would be older than 35 before the bonds are paid off.
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Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan in Dallas. During the academic year, he coaches high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.