Highland Park ISD Trustees Officially Schedule $361 Million Bond Election

3636 Amherst Avenue

3636 Amherst Avenue is one of our newest homes for sale in Highland Park ISD.

Our friends at Park Cities People report that the Highland Park ISD Board of Trustees on Tuesday called a $361 million bond election for Nov. 3. That’s $3 million more than what was proposed by the district’s Facilities Committee back in June, but when you’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, what’s three million more, right?

If approved, the bond issue will allow the district to create a fifth elementary campus on land purchased from Northway Christian Church before razing and rebuilding three of its four existing elementary schools. The money will also go toward renovations and expansions at the intermediate school, the middle school, and the high school.

I’ve heard of no organized opposition to this $361 million proposal so far, but there is a precedent for such resistance in Highland Park ISD.

In 1992, a $35.45 million bond proposal was opposed by a group called Responsible Citizens for Education. Nonetheless, the package was approved (59 percent to 41 percent) in an election that saw a robust turnout of 28 percent.

Six years later, the district brought a $76.1 million bond issue to voters with plans to build a fifth elementary school plus make additions and improvements to other facilities. This one was opposed by two groups: the Park Cities Taxpayers Association and Park Cities Citizens for Responsible School Solutions. Voter turnout that time was a staggering 52 percent, and the proposal was soundly defeated (61 percent to 39 percent).

The district’s most recent bond election was a tame affair in 2008, when a $75.4 million proposal was approved in a landslide election (91 percent to 9 percent) with a paltry turnout: 9 percent.

I expect things to be a little more contentious this time around. Already, the conservative watchdog group Empower Texans is questioning the necessity and transparency of the $361 million proposal.

$358 Million Bond Proposal Presented to Highland Park ISD Board of Trustees

Hyer Elementary

If voters approve the bond issue, a new elementary school would be built in the Hyer attendance zone.

In the 100-year history of Highland Park ISD, there’s never been a proposed bond issue worth more than $100 million. But that milestone will almost certainly be eclipsed this fall, because the district’s Facilities Committee last night presented a $358 million bond proposal to the Board of Trustees.

Nearly $140 million would go toward elementary schools. Three of the four existing ones — Bradfield, Hyer, and University Park — would be rebuilt one at a time. During those construction periods, each school’s student body would occupy a new elementary school that would be built on land currently owned by Northway Christian Church. That’s why $45 million worth of the proposal is earmarked for land acquisition.

Trustees will decide the exact amount of the bond issue, and that decision won’t happen until after the new superintendent officially starts on June 22 and after trustees hear residents’ concerns at a to-be-announced series of public forums. The ultimate decision will then be made by Highland Park ISD voters in November.

Here’s a look at how other bond elections have gone in Highland Park ISD in the last 25 years:

[table]Year, , Bond amount, Approved?, Vote Results, Voter Turnout
1992, , $35.54 million, Yes, 59% to 41%, 28%
1998, , $76.1 million, No, 61% to 39%, 52%
1999, , $49.95 million*, , , 11%
, Prop. 1, $6.53 million, Yes, 78% to 22%,
, Prop. 2, $7.45 million, Yes, 77% to 23%,
, Prop. 3, $35.97 million, Yes, 74% to 26%,
2008, , $75.4 million, Yes, 91% to 9%, 9%[/table]

* Divided into a menu of three propositions