Voters living in Denton school boundaries approved a $312 million bond Tuesday.
The bond package will fund four new schools, a ninth-grade addition at Guyer High School, renovations at 17 campuses, energy conservation improvements and land acquisition.
Complete unofficial returns released by the Denton County Elections Administration Tuesday indicated 68.14 percent of voters approved the bond package while 31.86 percent opposed the package. A total of 8,782 people cast ballots for the Denton school bond proposition, according to the elections office.
About 30 to 40 people including committee members, supporters, students, board member Barbara Burns, board president Charles Stafford and Superintendent Jamie Wilson gathered at the Prairie House restaurant in Cross Roads Tuesday for an election return watch party, bond citizens advisory committee members said.
Stafford thanked bond citizens advisory committee co-chairmen Tim Crouch and Mike Woods and the entire committee for the “heavy lifting” they did to get the bond passed and the voters, who he said supported Denton schoolchildren and facilities needed by the district.
“I’m extremely proud to be a part of a community that’s so supportive of its children and its schools,” he said.
The 2013 $312 million bond package includes $149.6 million for a fourth comprehensive high school to be built out on the U.S. Highway 380 Corridor; $49.9 million for a ninth-grade addition at Guyer High School; $23.2 million for Elementary School No. 23; $27.7 million Elementary School No. 24; $48.2 million for Middle School No. 8; $11.4 million for renovations at the 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 and Denton, Fred Moore and Ryan high schools; $1.6 million for intelligent irrigation, exterior lighting retrofits, and a heating, ventilating and air condition retrofit at Guyer High School and $18 million for land acquisition.
Though estimated costs for the projects total more than $329 million, district officials previously said that if the bond package received approval from voters, $17 million in savings accrued from the 2007 bond package would be applied to the 2013 bond package projects.
Denton resident George Mitchell said he and his wife noted long lines at two polling sites, first at the North Lakes Recreation Center where they voted, and then the North Branch Library where they were going to return a few books.
“Lines we thought were unusual for this type of election cycle,” Mitchell said, referring to the length.
Election officials noted the North Branch Library was one of the busiest with an estimated 1,063 people voting today by at least 15 minutes before the polls closed.
At the polling sites, Mitchell noted there were people handing out information to voters.
“We voted for the bonds. Our four children all went through school here,” Mitchell said. “And we benefited greatly from the school system. There is no question about that.”
Individuals opposing the 2013 bond argued the package would pass on more debt and worried about the debt being passed on to their children. In a previous interview, Wilson said the district had $631 million in outstanding debt.
According to a campaign finance report filed with the Denton school district Oct. 28, a specific purpose committee, going by the name of “It’s OK to Vote NO on Denton ISD Bonds,” reported $5,910 in contributions and reported $2,060 in advertising expenses to get the group’s message to the masses. A Facebook page was also created last month, bearing the same name as the group, that shared the group’s platform, events and spurred debates with prospective voters.
Jarrod Atkinson, who claimed he was the spokesman for “It’s OK to Vote NO on Denton ISD Bonds,” said he wasn’t “wildly excited” about Tuesday’s election returns. He said his committee really didn’t get “ramped up until after early voting started but felt it made an impact on Election Day voters. Election Day results were “significantly close to even” than they were for early voting, Atkinson said. He said the group set out to show voters that they were not terrible people for voting no.
“Early voting, we just got hammered,” he said. “On Election Day, we did better. When we as a PAC got the information out there, people made a more informed decision, and I believe a more informed decision was to vote against the bond package.”
Last spring, the Denton 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.
Proponents for the bond package have said recommendations made for the 2013 bond package will accommodate district growth.
A campaign finance report filed with school district Oct. 28 by “For the Future,” a group supporting the bond package, reported $23,500 in contributions and reported $16,324.45 in expenses.
According to a video presented to prospective voters in months leading up to the election, it was indicated that the school 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.
Woods and Crouch said they were pleased with Tuesday’s returns.
“We think it’s been a great day for Denton schools, and we think Denton voters came out and really supported this bond package,” Crouch said Tuesday.
The $312 million bond package is the largest passed in district history.
This is the third successful Denton school district bond package to gain approval by voters in more than 10 years. The last bonds passed were $152.3 million in 2002 and $282 million in 2007.
According to bond election information on the school district website, if the bond package passed, it could result in a 1-cent tax rate increase. The district’s current tax rate for bond indebtedness is 49 cents per $100 property valuation, and the maximum tax rate for bond indebtedness is 50 cents per $100 valuation.
The estimated additional tax on a $150,000 home, excluding those who are eligible for the over-65 exemption, would be $15 a year.
Staff writer Bj Lewis contributed to this report.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.
DENTON ISD ELECTION
Proposition: The issuance of $312 million in bonds for four new schools, a ninth-grade addition at Guyer High School, renovations at 17 campuses, energy conservation improvements and land acquisition.