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Houston district administrators recommend $1.7 billion bond election in May 2019

Recommended proposal would pay for rebuilding 18 existing campuses and constructing 3 new schools.

Administrators in the Houston district are recommending that the school system seek a $1.7 billion bond vote a year from now.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the $1.7 billion bond would pay for rebuilding 18 existing campuses, constructing three new schools, and upgrading security at all 280-plus campuses.

District leaders say they will have a better idea this summer whether a tax increase would be necessary to pay for a $1.7 billion package. Officials say that the bond amount could be reduced to avoid a tax increase.

For a bond election in May 2019, board members would have to decide in late 2018 or early 2019 whether to put the proposal on the ballot.

If approved, the bond would be the district's first since 2012, when 67 percent of voters backed a $1.89 billion package.

The proposal, however, could meet more resistance than usual because of major upheaval in the district.

In the past four months, Houston has lost its superintendent, announced a $100 million-plus operating budget deficit and increased the chances of losing local control over its school board by choosing not to surrender control over 10 chronically under-performing campuses. 

The district also has been criticized in the past for adding $212 million to the $1.89 billion bond approved by voters in 2012.

The new recommendation represents a shift from earlier comments about a potential bond.

In January, leaders discussed the possibility of a $500 million proposal that would result in no tax increase, or a $1.2 billion bond that would come with an increase of 3 cents to 7 cents per $100 in taxable value.

Chief Operating Officer Brian Busby says the proposed bond amount has changed as district leaders further assessed campus and maintenance needs.

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