A year after Tuloso-Midway ISD fell short on voter support for a bond election, the district is returning to voters again this fall with a larger, more expansive bond proposal.
The district is asking for a total of $164.8 million through three bond propositions. Proposition A, the largest proposition by far, would include $152 million to build a new junior high school and a new career and technology education center, as well as to address safety and security, districtwide maintenance and new bus purchases.
Also on the ballot in November will be $7.8 million for natatorium upgrades and maintenance in Proposition B and $5 million for athletic upgrades in Proposition C.
Last year, the district proposed a smaller $98.5 million bond package. The failed measure was the district’s first bond initiative in over a decade. Had it passed, the funds would have gone towards maintenance, a new early childhood education center, music programs and security upgrades.
“When you have a failed bond, it’s really difficult because the needs are there and you’ve really let your district down, particularly the kids,” Superintendent Steve Van Matre said.
Van Matre said that he feels responsible for the previous bond failure, noting that he reached out to superintendents who had successfully passed a bond after a failed bond for guidance. A recommendation that Van Matre said the district pursued was an in-depth survey of community members, gauging support for a bond.
The new proposals are based on the recommendations of district parents, staff and community members, expanding upon the 2022 plans.
“I really don’t think the bond wasn’t successful because of the price tag,” Van Matre said. “I think I did a poor job of messaging and educating the public on our needs and how we were going to pay for it.”
To inform community members, the district plans to hold public meetings on each campus over the next month before early voting begins on Oct. 23.
Early voting ends Nov. 3. Election day is Nov. 7.
What projects are included in Proposition A?
The largest part of Proposition A would be the construction of a new junior high school, which would shift where some grades are educated.
Currently, the district has a high school serving grades 9-12, a middle school serving grades 6-8, an intermediate school serving grades 3-5 and a primary school serving pre-K through second grade.
Under the bond plan, the new school would take grades 7 and 8. The current middle school would serve students in grades 5 and 6. The current intermediate school would serve students in grades 2-4.
Moving second grade from the primary school would create space in an overcrowded campus and make room to expand the pre-K program to serve more 4-year-olds.
The new career and technical education center, a nearly $30 million project, would be built alongside Tuloso-Midway High School.
Van Matre said that the CTE center is a reflection of increased interest in CTE programs. The center would include space built to serve specific programs, including health care programs that help students earn phlebotomy and certified nursing assistant certifications, and welding bays.
The district also offers a law enforcement pathway and has plans to introduce cosmetology next year.
“We would keep our current facilities because we need both,” Van Matre said.
The $22 million for safety and security projects would cover security vestibules, cameras, door and window improvements, a new access system, fencing, lighting and more.
Van Matre said that the average TMISD school is 40 years-old.
The bond includes $30 million for maintenance, including roof replacements, air conditioning repairs and replacements, new generators, new furniture and band instruments, upgraded sewage systems at the middle school and administration building, painting and joint repair, wall repair, renovations to address non-compliant restrooms and parking lot repairs.
Other expenses include new school buses.
What is included in Proposition B and C?
Proposition B, $7.8 million, would go towards natatorium upgrades.
“We have an extremely vibrant swim program,” Van Matre said. “We finished second in state last year and we have a very large amount of kids that learn to swim in our natatorium.”
The natatorium was built in 1984.
“It shows it age,” Van Matre said. “It doesn’t have air conditioning. It’s not properly grounded. We have a bulkhead that needs to be replaced.”
Propositions C, $5 million for athletic fields, would benefit the tennis, baseball and softball facilities.
If approved, the district would resurface the tennis courts, add shaded seating to the tennis courts and add turf to the baseball and softball fields.
How could the bond projects impact taxes?
If approved, the district will be able to borrow funds for the outlined projects. The debt would be repaid with revenues from the district’s interest and sinking property tax rate.
If all three propositions are approved, that I&S tax rate would increase 13.28 cents per $100 of assessed value over a three-year period. This increase would not impact homeowners age 65 and over due to homestead exemptions.
If just Proposition A is improved, the impact would be 12.25 cents per $100 of assessed value. The impact of Proposition B is 0.63 cents, while the impact of Proposition C is less than half a cent.
Van Matre said that TMISD currently has the second-lowest tax rate in the region.
Though the I&S rate would increase if the bond is approved by voters, the other side of school property taxes is expected to decrease. Most of the tax revenues collected by schools go towards maintenance and operations.
Van Matre added that though some of the district’s M&O proceeds are recaptured by the state, all I&S dollars stay local. Van Matre said that 89% of the district’s I&S revenues are paid for by industry.
Due to state tax compression efforts and increases in property values, the district’s M&O rate is dropping by 24 cents this year. Property values increased by 29% this year, Van Matre said.
“Even with the passage of the bond, citizens are going to see a tax reduction,” Van Matre said.