Two school-related issues are before Denton County voters on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Residents in the Denton school district are being asked to vote for or against a $312 million bond package, while those in the Lewisville school district will elect a candidate to an unexpired term on the school board.
Denton school officials describe the referendum as the largest bond package to go before district voters.
The bond package, if approved, would support construction of a fourth comprehensive high school slated for construction along the U.S. Highway 380 Corridor, the 23rd and 24th elementary schools, an eighth middle school, a ninth-grade addition at Guyer High School, renovations at 17 campuses, energy conservation improvements and land acquisition.
Estimated costs for the projects in the bond package total more than $329 million, and district officials previously said that if voters approve the package, about $17 million in savings obtained from the 2007 bond package would be applied toward the proposed 2013 bond projects.
Last spring, the school board appointed more than 30 people to an advisory committee to evaluate district needs over a 10-year period, study energy efficiency, “green” schools and sustainable features.
Recommendations for the bond package were clear after reviewing growth trends and student populations for the district, said Tim Crouch, co-chairman of the Bond Citizens Advisory Committee.
Among the top priorities was a high school in the 380 Corridor. Planning for the campus was supported with 2007 bond funds.
According to a video explaining the bond package, the district’s student population has more than doubled since 2000, from 13,400 to more than 26,000. By 2018, enrollment is projected at 31,000 students.
Annually, Crouch said the district is growing by 1,000 students, which is putting a strain on facilities and the teaching environment.
Supporters say the bond package would provide schools for the district’s growing population, alleviate some overcrowding and refurbish existing facilities.
Those opposing the referendum say it piles on more debt.
Superintendent Jamie Wilson said the district has $631 million in outstanding debt.
“We work diligently to pay our debt off early, refinance lower interest rates and be as fiscally responsible as possible to save our taxpayer dollars,” he said.
According to bond election information on the school district website, if the bond referendum passes, the estimated additional tax on a $150,000 home, excluding those who are eligible for the over-65 exemption, would be $15 a year. The district’s current tax rate for bond indebtedness is 49 cents per $100 property valuation. The maximum tax rate for bond indebtedness is 50 cents per $100 valuation.
This is the third Denton school district bond referendum to go before voters in more than 10 years. The last bond referendums were in 2002 and 2007.
District spokeswoman Sharon Cox said that since the bond election was called in August, more than 60 presentations on the bond package have been made to prospective voters.
In total, she said an estimated 5,000 people have viewed the bond package presentation. Between now and Election Day, Cox said eight to 10 more presentations will be made.
A special election is being held to fill the Place 3 Lewisville school board seat left vacant in August by Mark Welding.
Angie Cox, Tracy Scott Miller and Paige Shoven are all vying for the at-large seat, which expires in May 2016.
The school board called a special election Aug. 16 to fill the Place 3 seat. Welding submitted his resignation Aug. 12, just three months after being sworn in.
According to school officials, Welding cited personal reasons and time constraints as the reason for his resignation.
Early voting begins Monday and continues through Nov. 1. Election Day is Nov. 5. For information on Denton County polling locations, visit www.votedenton.com.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.
The following projects and cost estimates are included in the $312 million bond referendum before voters:
Fourth comprehensive high school: $149.6 million
Guyer High School ninth-grade addition: $49.9 million
Elementary School No. 23: 23.2 million
Elementary School No. 24: $27.7 million
Middle School No. 8: $48.2 million
Renovations (Ann Windle School for Young Children; Borman, Evers, Ginnings, Hodge, McNair, Newton Rayzor, Rivera, W.S. Ryan and Wilson elementary schools; Calhoun, Crownover, McMath and Strickland middle schools; Denton, Fred Moore and Ryan high schools): $11.4 million
Energy conservation improvements (Intelligent irrigation; exterior lighting retrofit; and heating, ventilating and air condition retrofit at Guyer High School): $1.6 million
Land acquisitions: $18 million