Parents supportive of SAISD $450 million bond say schools smell, have heat issues

Parents say bond is necessary for better learning environment

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Independent School District school board voted unanimously Monday, to call for a $450 million bond election and a tax hike for bigger school upgrades. Both of those initiatives will now be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Victoria Moreno Herrera's kids are SAISD students. That's why she joined the Blue Ribbon Task Force Committee, exploring changes for the district. The committee recently toured some district schools, and Herrera said she was surprised by the trip.

"We walked into some and the moment we opened the door the smell was nauseating. It was really, really frightening to think that kids are going into these schools every day and they're expected to learn. In others, we would tour classrooms and they would have to repeat or yell and scream so we could hear over the AC system. Others, it was so hot inside the classrooms some of us had to get up and leave," Herrera said.

Many of those schools are the focus of the $450 million bond project. If the bond passes, 13 schools could get renovations. That includes seven high schools, four middle schools, and two elementary schools.

After Monday's unanimous school board vote that bond will be on the November ballot. The only bond opponents Herrera has come across are parents upset their children's schools aren't a part of the bond. Herrera says her kids' schools aren't either, and she's still supporting it.

"Fourteen of us were afforded the opportunity to walk through these classrooms and I think if anybody were to walk in and see that, they would support it," she said.

A separate initiative, the Tax Ratification Election or TRE, would affect all SAISD schools.

"The TRE would improve the technology, bring Smart Boards, 21st century classrooms, extracurricular activities, some of the schools don't have music or choir or art," Herrera said.

Another unanimous vote put the TRE on the ballot as well. It would increase the district's tax rate 13 cents. The increase would be matched by the state, pouring about $30 million a year into SAISD.

An SAISD spokesperson sent the following detailed breakdown of how these initiatives would affect the public's taxes:

Estimated Tax Impact

School district tax rates in Texas have two parts: the Maintenance & Operations (M&O) tax, which pays for day-to-day operations, such as salaries, utilities and supplies; and the debt service rate, also known as Interest & Sinking (I&S) tax, which is used to pay down bond debt used to finance school construction and renovations - but may not be used for daily operating costs.

The 13-cent increase to the M&O rate would take effect in 2016. It’s estimated that the I&S rate would increase by 12 cents incrementally over five years, starting in 2017, to support the proposed bond program.

The impact to the owner of an average taxable-value home in SAISD of $70,023 would be an initial increase of $7.59 a month in 2016. In 2017, the impact is estimated to be an additional $1.16 for a total of $8.75 a month, which would incrementally go up to $14.59 a month by 2020.

Under Texas law, in 2017, the board could implement an additional $5,000 homestead exemption. If that exemption is enacted, the monthly tax impact for the average homeowner in 2017 would be $2.37 instead of $8.75; and then would go up incrementally to $7.79 a month by 2020.

SAISD property taxes for senior citizens would not be affected by either of the two proposals as long as a homestead and over 65 exemption application has been filed with the Bexar County Appraisal District, and the person has owned the home as of Jan. 1, 2016.

The district said it is committed to remaining good steward of taxpayer dollars. It cites the 2010 bond, which has been financed by a property tax rate that has, through effective financial management, been consistently lower than what was originally projected. That bond included renovations to 22 schools, as well as safety and security upgrades across the district, and is on track to come in at or just under budget.

About the Author:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.