Proposition A, the largest at $1.2 billion, passed by a mere 42 votes, according to Tarrant County election results.
Proposition A is aimed at the construction, renovation, and equipping of school buildings in the district. It will include building a new elementary school.
Propositions B, C, and D were smaller packages totaling less than $300 million for building, refurbishing, and equipping fine arts facilities and stadiums within FWISD.
The smaller bond packages were defeated by much larger margins. Proposition B was defeated with 54 percent of the vote against it. Voters defeated Proposition C by a margin of 33 percent, and Proposition D failed with only about 42 percent voting in favor of it.
Citizen opponents of the bond package argued against its timing and magnitude. They also pointed to the flagging performance of the district and what they see as a lack of transparency by the administration and leadership.
The current rating of FWISD by the Texas Education Agency is 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.
Joe Palmer, a resident who opposed the bond packages, contrasted this bond package vote with that from 2017. The 2017 $750 million bond package passed with over 70 percent of the vote compared with the few dozen vote margin approving Proposition A this year.
“I think this sends a clear signal to the district that the well is running dry given the state and uncertainty in the economy,” Palmer told The Texan. He also believes the state-mandated language declaring the bond proposals a “tax increase” is a large factor in the failure of some of the bonds.
Carlos Turcios, a recent FWISD graduate who helped organize opposition to the bonds, agrees with Palmer. “I think it is a rejection of higher property taxes and the poor performance of Fort Worth ISD and Superintendent Scribner.”
Despite the largest bond package’s approval, Turcios is optimistic. “I’m pretty happy with how it played out because I am confident that people are paying more attention to what is happening.”
The bond package authorizes a total of $1.2 billion, but the district need not issue all of the bonds that were authorized. Palmer would like to see FWISD conduct a survey of residents to see what their priorities are for the bond package that passed.
While FWISD pointed out that with interest rates at around 2 percent, this is an optimal time to issue bonds to take advantage of the record low rates, it is unlikely to issue the total $1.2 billion in bonds immediately. The bond proposal website FAQs assert that the bonds are likely to be sold over five years with the first sale likely occurring in the Spring of 2022, at which point the interest rates may no longer be as low.
The election totals included over 3,000 absentee ballots. In Tarrant County, registered voters may request a ballot by mail if they are 65 years of age or older, have a disability, are expected to give birth within three weeks before or after election day, expect to be absent from the county during early voting and on election day, or are confined to jail.
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Kim Roberts is a regional 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.