Fort Bend ISD bonds proposed to improve facilities as lawmakers grapple over funding, tax relief

Briana Conner Image
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Fort Bend ISD proposing $1.2B in bonds with tax relief hanging over
Fort Bend ISD is putting up $1.2 billion in bonds up to a vote as its schools are in desperately need of repairs.

SUGAR LAND, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Legislature has about six weeks left to come up with a budget. Two of the big priorities are school funding and property tax relief. Those two issues are coming to a head in Fort Bend County, where voters are being asked to consider a bond that would raise the property tax rate to pay for district-wide improvements.

It's been five years since Fort Bend ISD has asked voters to approve a bond, but this time, it is asking for more money than ever. The funds would pay for things the legislature doesn't, like new buildings, but it's a tough sell for some taxpayers who are banking on smaller bills.

"When I was a student here, some of the cracks in the wall were here," Allison Masaki, who graduated from Clements High School in 2005, said. "Now, the campus is in critical condition. Shifting ground is impacting the foundation, which is causing cracks all over the campus. Some of them are so big that books can pass between classrooms underneath the walls."

State Rep. Ron Reynolds, whose District 27 includes the school district, supports the proposed bond that would impact every Fort Bend ISD student.

"Many people understand there's a need for new schools," the House Democrat said.

The bond is broken up into three propositions. Proposition A is the biggest and most expensive, coming in at $1.18 billion. That money would update or replace old schools, improve transportation and technology, and enhance campus safety features.

Proposition B would dedicate $52 million to new staff and student computers. Proposition C would set aside $23 million to build an additional natatorium on the district's southeast side.

"We have set this up to be very clear, to be a needs-based bond, and to have it spread out across the district. We are hoping our voters will see that," Superintendent Dr. Christie Whitbeck said.

The voters, however, have also demonstrated that they want to see property tax relief. The estimated impact of all the propositions would be an additional $2.50 per month for a $300,000 home, unless a resident is 65 or older or has a disability.

The clashing is where Rep. Reynolds says the state can step in to lessen the burden by passing a budget that lowers property taxes.

"We need to do the hard things, make the tough decisions. Unfortunately, I haven't seen it happen yet, in the spirit of transparency, in this session. We have a record surplus and over $12 billion in our 'Rainy Day Fund.' So, there's no excuse. It's just a matter of priorities," he said.

Voters can make their preference clear on Election Day, which is May 6. The district is hosting informational sessions leading up to it.

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