At a school board meeting earlier this month, the Northwest ISD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to have three elections on the Nov. 3 ballot:
Board of Trustees Election: The annual school board election, which is usually held in May, was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Three Board seats (Places 5, 6, and 7) will be on the ballot.
Bond Election: The May 2020 bond election, which was also postponed, will now be presented to voters in November. The bond proposal is designed to address growth, aging facilities, technology and student programs.
Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE): The Board adopted the 2020-2021 tax rate of $1.4663 which triggered a VATRE (formerly called a TRE or Tax Ratification Election).
In February, the NISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved the district’s Long-Range Planning Committee’s recommendation to call for a $986 million bond package. The bond referendum proposes the following:
- Seven New Schools, with three being replacement schools (Pike MS, Seven Hills ES, Hatfield ES)
- Significant Renovation and Expansion of Northwest High School
- Expansion of Nance Elementary
- Additions at 14 Elementary Schools to Create Full-Day Pre-K Classrooms
- Capital Improvements
- Technology (new technology and replacement cycle for devices)
- Upgrades to Security Systems
- Student Program Updates (CTE, special education, athletics, and fine arts)
As originally announced, the passage of the 2020 bond would not require an increase to the Interest & Sinking (I&S) tax rate. In fact, the NISD Board of Trustees voted on August 10 to lower the I&S rate three pennies, dropping it to $0.42, according to a news release from Northwest ISD.
If passed, most bond funds – about 70% – would be used to address Northwest ISD’s rapidly-growing student population. Northwest ISD annually welcomes more than 1,000 new students in its 234 square miles, which spans three counties and 14 municipalities. Projects included in the bond referendum are expected to accommodate enrollment projections for the next four to five years.
As one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state, Northwest ISD has enrolled more than 10,000 new students in the past 10 years, with today’s enrollment five times larger than it was 20 years ago.
With nearly 2,000 new home closings in the past year and 3,500 developed lots currently available within the school district’s boundaries, demographers project that the district will continue to grow at a fast rate. Enrollment projections show that Northwest ISD will likely enroll more than 5,500 new students in the next five years and 10,000 new students by the year 2030.
In compliance with new state laws that took effect Sept. 1, 2019, the total bond package will be presented to voters as four separate ballot propositions.
- Proposition A will include new schools, expansions, facility updates, and capital improvements.
- Proposition B will include funds for other recreational facilities (middle school tennis courts and fields used for football and soccer as well as high school baseball, softball, and tennis facilities).
- Proposition C will include updates to the Northwest ISD Stadium and Texan Stadium (the district’s track and field complex).
- Proposition D will include funds to continue providing technology devices for teachers and students.
Bond projects are funded out of the district’s Interest & Sinking (I&S) tax rate, which was lowered three cents by the Board of Trustees at Monday night’s board meeting. The I&S rate dropped from $0.45 to $0.42.
VOTER-APPROVAL TAX RATE ELECTION
In addition, the Board also adopted the 2020-2021 Maintenance & Operations (M&O) tax rate, triggering a Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE). If approved by voters, the VATRE would allow the district to receive an estimated $21 million — annually — in additional funding which could be used for staff salaries, student programs, and to fund additional projected operating costs. The M&O rate for 2020-2021 will be $1.0463, up from $1.04 in 2019 (prior to House Bill 3), and $0.97 in 2020 (after compression from House Bill 3).
Under House Bill 3, Northwest ISD sees a reduction of $10-$15 million per year in revenue. If a VATRE is approved, it would allow the district to access 13 additional pennies. Without these funds, Northwest ISD’s ability to provide the current level of education and meet the needs of continued growth is greatly impacted. Due to House Bill 3 and cuts from state funding, NISD is faced with finding approximately $25 million in budget cuts this year, and potentially up to $45-55 million over the next three years. If NISD realizes the $21 million of additional revenue, that will offset the state funding cuts and help the district manage student enrollment growth in the future.
The VATRE will be presented to voters as Proposition E.
Anyone who is a registered voter and lives within the Northwest ISD boundaries (and has their current NISD address on file with the county voter registrar) is eligible to vote in the November school district elections. Voter registration applications are available at many government buildings, many NISD schools, and can be printed from the Secretary of State’s website. To vote in the November 2020 election, voters must be registered by Oct. 5.
Early voting begins Oct. 13 and runs through Oct. 30. Election Day is Nov. 3.