The fate of Denton ISD’s $750 million bond proposal is now in the hands of the voters.
School board members voted unanimously Tuesday night to put the measure on the May election ballot. If it passes, the five-year bond package would be the most expensive in the school district’s history.
A 56-member steering committee put together the proposal, which includes funds for a ninth middle school, a 25th elementary school, “replacement” campuses for several aging buildings, renovations to 16 existing campuses and additions to extracurricular facilities.
“Nearly 25 percent of Denton ISD schools are 40 years or older,” bond committee co-chairwoman Lauren Baccus said during a presentation at the January board meeting. “These campuses are inequitable to the district’s newer campuses. We visited a lot of these campuses and saw how in dire need some of them are.”
The project with the largest price tag would be a $194 million campus that would become Denton High School. The bond committee didn’t have an exact location for the new campus, but recommended that board members keep the school somewhere within Loop 288.
The current Denton High campus on Fulton Street would then undergo a $30 million renovation and turn into Calhoun Middle School. The current Calhoun campus on Congress Street was built in 1924 as Denton Senior High School and received a historical marker from the Texas Historical Commission.
“There’s no demolition planned for Calhoun,” Denton ISD Superintendent Jamie Wilson said. He added that district officials would look at repurposing the building to hold additional programs, such as career and technology classes, entrepreneurship courses or fine arts.
If voters approve the project, school officials said property owners won’t see an increase in their property tax rate, which has remained at $1.54 per $100 valuation since 2014.
Denton ISD voters approved a “tax swap” in September that shifted the district’s tax rate. Though the overall tax rate remained the same, voters approved a 2-cent increase to the maintenance and operations rate which pays for salaries and daily costs. In turn, the district lowered its interest and sinking tax rate, or the money used to build facilities, by 2 cents.
Currently, Denton ISD owes $1.4 billion in bond debt, according to data from the Texas Bond Review Board. About $817 million of that sum is the principal bond amount, while the remaining $599 million is interest. School officials said they work each year to bring that debt down, having paid off $134 million in debt so far.
“We don’t sell the bonds until we have the tax rate that allows us to pay for it,” Wilson said. “As new growth comes into the community, that growth allows you to issue those bonds to do these projects. Whether this bond passes or fails, that tax rate is going to stay at $1.54.”
Election day for the bond proposal and other local elections has been set for May 5. To learn more about the bond proposal or the bond committee, go to www.dentonisdcac.org.
CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.