SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Independent School District officials and educators are counting on voters to pass two propositions worth $1.3 billion in the Nov. 3 general election they said is badly needed to make significant renovations to aging campuses and technology upgrades.
“With the bond of 2020, one of the opportunities is again it provides us to bring all these facilities up to code,” said Rick Flores, principal of Rhodes Middle School, which is among one of 21 campuses that haven’t been renovated in more than 50 years.
The last time Rhodes Middle School had a renovation was in the 1980s for a new air conditioning system, which also needs to be replaced.
District officials took a KSAT 12 News crew for a tour of the school, which has damaged walls, aging equipment and some areas of the campus which are not code compliant.
Flores said it can get very warm inside the school auditorium because of the aging AC unit. “There are four of us in here right now, and you can sense the humidity already,” Flores said. “The challenge is when we have a fully-staffed students here.”
Proposition A, if approved, would provide $1.21 billion for security upgrades to all schools.
The money would also be used for extensive renovations to 36 campuses, which will include new infrastructure to 21 campuses that need bigger classrooms and new air conditioning units like Rhodes Middle School and MLK Academy. Both schools were built over 50 years ago and have original buildings.
“The original building has not changed,” said MLK Academy Principal Natasha Pinnix. “It has been this way since it was a traditional middle school”
Pinnix said students play sports on tile floor instead of wood in the gym that she said goes against updated safety recommendations.
Some of the old campuses have original chalk boards instead of interactive smart boards. This is where Proposition B comes into play.
The $90 million plan, if approved, would bring technology upgrades to every school in the district. Flores said this is crucial now more than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “So, we want to make certain that we are having the technology where there is no digital divide with our kiddos, that’s our number one priority,” Flores said.
Will propositions increase voter taxes?
The short answer is no. The proposition language on the ballot has a line that reads “This will increase your taxes.” But in reality, taxes won’t increase. If you visit the SAISD Bond page, it explains the line is necessary due of a 2019 Texas law that makes including that line mandatory on all ballot propositions even if the proposition doesn’t increase taxes.
Where do the funds come from?
The district says three factors will help fund the propositions.
A few combined factors have placed SAISD in a position to issue the bonds without having to raise the district’s total tax rate:
Downtown construction and renovations: There have been significant building development within the district’s boundaries that increases SAISD’s total taxable property value and generates more money to SAISD without having to raise the tax rate. This trend of building projects is expected to continue.
Interest rates at all-time lows: With interest rates at an all-time low, SAISD will pay less interest on the bonds. The district anticipates generating enough revenue at the current tax rate, and with the increased property values coming from downtown development, to pay off the lower-interest debt.
Decline in existing debt service: SAISD’s annual debt payments are scheduled to decline over time as the district pays down debt. This means money will be freed up to pay for debt issued under Bond 2020.
Here are the breakdowns of the propositions:
Proposition A: $1.21 billion
- Security upgrades for all schools
- Replacement of all air-conditioning chillers more than 15 years old
- Extensive renovations to 36 campuses
- 21 schools whose main buildings have not been fully renovated in more than 50 years, and most with 30-year-old infrastructure
- The final phase to complete 15 schools' renovations that received partial renovations under Bond 2016 or Bond 2010
- Funds for buildings housing new school models
Proposition B: $90 million
- Technology upgrades in every school
- High-speed connectivity in every classroom
- Interactive smart boards, audio systems, devices, charging carts and other support tools
Find more information on the bond proposals, click here.
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