Bonding Session

Effects of Leander ISD’s New Bond Proposal

Watching+the+Board+of+Trustee%E2%80%99s+presentation%2C+parents+and+teachers+listen+about+the+upcoming+bond+proposal+and+vote+being+held+on+Nov.+2.+This+vote+will+include+the+key+issue+of+how+LISD+plans+to+fund+their+%24772+million+funding+plan+with+bonds.+%E2%80%9CBond+dollars+are+not+part+of+the+district%E2%80%99s+budget%2C%E2%80%9D+President+of+the+Board+of+Trustees+Trish+Bode+said.+%E2%80%9CAdditionally%2C+bond+dollars+are+not+subject+to+recapture%2C+a+state+law+where+LISD+receives+less+money+in+state+aid+for+every+additional+dollar+in+local+tax+collections.+Bond+dollars+are+%241+for+%241+investment+in+our+district%3B+the+state+doesn%E2%80%99t+remove+aid+based+on+collections+for+debt+service.

Photo by Jaden Kolenbrander

Watching the Board of Trustee’s presentation, parents and teachers listen about the upcoming bond proposal and vote being held on Nov. 2. This vote will include the key issue of how LISD plans to fund their $772 million funding plan with bonds. “Bond dollars are not part of the district’s budget,” President of the Board of Trustees Trish Bode said. “Additionally, bond dollars are not subject to recapture, a state law where LISD receives less money in state aid for every additional dollar in local tax collections. Bond dollars are $1 for $1 investment in our district; the state doesn’t remove aid based on collections for debt service.”

Jaden Kolenbrander, Reporter

$772 million. That’s the total amount of money that the Leander Independent School District is planning to allocate toward its schools through three individual bond proposals. If passed, the bonds would pay for renovations, technology upgrades, and the construction of six new schools. Citizens will earn a chance to vote on these bonds in the upcoming Nov. 2 election. 

The $772 million cash injection, the number decided after negotiations between the Board of Trustees and the Citizens’ Faciliatory Advisory Committee lowered the CFAC’s initial $1.5 billion proposal, is in response to expected growth in LISD’s student enrollment numbers.  However, Leander ISD’s budget doesn’t have $772 million, and the total tax rate in the district has been declining over the past few years. Instead, the school board has chosen bonds, or money from investors, to fund these projects. According to President of the LISD Board of Trustees Trish Bode, bonds offer a greater advantage to the district over other financing means.

Bond dollars are not part of the district’s budget,” Bode said. “Additionally, bond dollars are not subject to recapture, a state law where LISD receives less money in state aid for every additional dollar in local tax collections. Bond dollars are $1 for $1 investment in our district; the state doesn’t remove aid based on collections for debt service.”

While the district takes on debt to finance its projects, the use of funding has fewer strings attached. Rather than increasing tax rates, bonds would pay for themselves through projected rates of growth in the district – such as how 20,600 houses are expected to be built in the next 10 years, meaning more houses to take property taxes from.

“Because Leander ISD has been paying off past debt ahead of schedule, the district’s projections show enough capacity in the budget to pay the debt on the bond without raising the tax rate,” Bode said. “The district will not borrow the total amount on day one. Rather, the district will borrow as projects get underway.”

If the proposals pass, a portion of the money will be sent to Cedar Park High School. Its projects consist of the construction and renovations of classrooms and buildings around the campus, such as constructing two new Mobile Makers labs and renovating the fine arts facilities and the culinary arts lab. Opinions about these projects among school staff members, such as AP Government teacher Jennifer Fortenberry, trend towards being positive.

“New constructions and renovations are important,” Fortenberry said. “We need to have the high-quality schools and resources that we’re known for in anticipation of all the future growth we’re going to have in this district, or else our new students aren’t going to have the full opportunity to learn. I think investing in public education and preparing our youth to pursue the career paths they want for themselves is always going to be a good investment.”

Technology improvements, too, are a part of Leander ISD’s plan to implement districtwide developments. Classroom technology – like school-loaned laptops and projectors – will be modified or replaced along with internet connectivity enhancements.

“The technology upgrades are going to help us catch up with how fast new technology is made nowadays,” Broadcast teacher Anthony Garcia said. “Times are changing and we need to keep up. It’ll make it easier for us to keep classes more efficient and flexible.”

Leander ISD citizens who are registered to vote can decide whether or not the bond proposal passes on Nov. 4. If it is not passed, the district will pursue other means of funding important school-related functions. However, the district is ready for the proposal’s acceptance with a series of comprehensive steps to ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible.

“The district will phase in bond sales as money is needed for construction,” Bode said. “[To add capacity], technology items with a shorter lifespan will be paid off early and current debt will be negotiated and lowered, reducing the debt we have to pay. Students who want to know further about the bond’s items can visit the bond page on the district website.”