HPISD Board of Trustees Discusses Possibility of a Bond Issue at Jan. 16 Meeting

The school district should consider a bond issue as one possible solution to address pressing repairs at older HPISD campuses and increase teacher compensation, board of trustee members said at their Jan. 16 meeting.

“The conversation is less about a bond than about a solution for these maintenance needs that have come up,” board of trustee president Maryjane Bonfield said after the meeting. “While the finance committee is thinking that a bond could make sense to solve the immediate facility needs, our board has to look at all the solutions.”

The Highland Park Middle School/McCulloch Intermediate School campus has the greatest immediate need for repairs, assistant superintendent for business services Scott Drillette told the board during an update on district facilities.

The school’s chiller piping system had a significant leak in August that caused $750,000 in damage, which was covered by the district’s insurance. The system’s “pervasive problems” led to another small leak over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which was caught early by the district facilities team, Drillette said.

System repairs will cost between $8 and $10 million dollars, he explained. While the district could use money from general operating funds without an immediate impact on teacher salaries, there could be long-term salary impacts in 2 or 3 years if the repair project is funded from the district’s annual operating budget. The piping repairs, along with needed district-wide safety and security improvements and additional high-priority fixes at MIS/HPMS, Armstrong Elementary and Highland Park High School, total about $33 million, according to Drillette.

Board finance officer Doug Woodward said dealing with the repairs out of operating funds “takes away our ability to do other priorities we’ve all identified as a board,” including increasing staff compensation. 

That’s because the district’s general operating fund, which pays for daily maintenance, also funds teacher salaries. The operating fund is replenished through local property taxes, which are subject to recapture by the state. In the 2022-23 school year, HPISD returned more than $107 million of taxpayer dollars to the state, Drillette explained.

Unlike property taxes, bond dollars all stay in the district. If voters approved a bond, the district could shift allowable expenditures out of its operating fund and use the savings to increase staff compensation. For example, the district could use bond funds to buy its own buses, capitalize software purchases, or install solar panels to reduce electrical costs, he said. 

Drillette told the board that, assuming a conservative increase in property values, the district could raise $100 million through a bond without a tax rate increase.

Bonfield explained that the board would seek feedback from a community committee before deciding to proceed with a bond. The board expects to hear more about a possible bond issue at a future meeting.

Other issues discussed at the Jan. 16 meeting included revisions to the district’s language arts and math instruction, and the 2022-23 Texas Academic Performance Report, which was released in December. Click HERE to view the meeting agenda and accompanying reports. 

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