Elections 2021Local NewsTaxes & SpendingFort Worth ISD Proposes Largest Bond Package in Its History at $1.5 Billion

Four propositions for construction and renovations of schools, sports, and fine arts facilities will be on the ballot, including language that the bonds are a “tax increase.”
October 27, 2021
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Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) has proposed a nearly $1.5 billion bond package for approval on the November 2 ballot. It is the largest package in the history of the district with an enrollment of over 76,000 students. Early voting is currently underway.

The package is composed of four propositions that will be voted on individually.

Proposition A is the largest at $1.2 billion for construction and renovation and equipping of school buildings in the district. It will include building a new elementary school.

Proposition B is aimed at improving fine arts facilities at a cost of over $98 million.

Proposition C, at a cost of almost $105 million, focuses on acquiring, constructing, and equipping stadiums.

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Proposition D has recreational facilities as its primary purpose, including replacing turf at existing stadiums. Its total is about $76 million.

FWISD claims that the bond package “will not increase your property tax rate,” however, the ballot will include language required by state law that “this is a property tax increase.” 

In 2019, the Texas legislature passed House Bill 3 requiring that bond elections include the “tax increase” language. Even though it may not be an immediate tax rate increase, the bond ballot language authorizes the school district to levy taxes “sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on the bonds.”

One concern among many that Joe Palmer, a resident and opponent of the bond package has, is that he believes the district has been “wordsmithing” about the tax rate not immediately increasing and misleading the public. Palmer pointed out that an increase in debt is an increase in the overall tax burden for the district, and the bond package authorizes the district to raise taxes if needed to pay the bonds.

Palmer also opposes the package due to the timing and magnitude of the proposal.

“With the amount of $1.49 billion plus interest, it will approach $2 billion. With inflation and the uncertainty of the economy, now is not the right time,” Palmer told The Texan.

According to the district budget, it currently has $1,378 in debt service per pupil in the district. 

Palmer also opposes the proposed uses of the bonds, believing that three extra stadiums are unnecessary right now given the current rating of FWISD by the Texas Education Agency of a “C.” The 2021 STAAR test reports showed that, of the district’s third graders, only 53 percent approached expectations for reading and only 42 percent for math.

“The core function of FWISD is education. Sports is secondary. If students can’t read and write before graduating, why are we building stadiums?” Palmer proposed.

Another area of concern to some citizens, like Chris Benton, are large contributions by construction and architecture firms to a special-purpose political action committee (SPAC) called Our Kids Our Future that is supporting passage of the bond package.

Required SPAC filings show a contribution of $15,000 by Huckabee and Associates, a Fort Worth architecture firm. Hellas Construction in Austin gave $20,000. The bond package even attracted a $10,000 contribution from LPA Inc., a construction design firm in Irvine, California. 

In 2017, voters approved a $750 million bond package and the improvements included in that package are nearly completed, according to the district’s annual report

Hahnfeld Hoffer Stanfield architects and planners, who were hired for some of the projects under the 2017 bond package, contributed $7500 to the Our Kids Our Future SPAC in support of the latest $1.5 billion bonds.

Additionally, both Procedeo, the company chosen to manage the 2017 bond projects, and its sister company, CORE Construction, have contributed a combined $8,000 to Our Kids Our Future. From January through September of this year, FWISD paid Procedeo over $5.8 million for its management duties.

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.