Bonds pass in Huffman ISD and Crosby MUD; Fail in Crosby ISD and Goose Creek
By David Taylor
With millions of dollars on the table to address growth in the area, voters narrowly passed the Huffman ISD and Crosby MUD bonds, but snubbed the Crosby ISD and Goose Creek CISD bond measures in elections last Tuesday.
The top two reasons for voting against the bonds mentioned on social media were trust and the economy.
Area leaders offered statements following the vote:
CROSBY ISD BOND—FAILED
Crosby ISD was seeking an additional $85 million from taxpayers to pool with the money left over from the 2017 bond to build new facilities to address growth. Voters resoundingly defeated the request, 1,072 (35.02%) voting for and 1,989 (64.98%) against the proposition. The bond only passed in Pct. 0251 and failed in all other precincts. Included in the bond wish list was a new middle school with only Phase 1 to be constructed, a new elementary school, and district-wide maintenance and renovations.
Superintendent Paula Patterson was unavailable for an interview but sent a statement.
“Thank you to everyone who voted in the 2023 bond election. Voting is one of the most cherished rights we have. Although the Crosby ISD bond did not pass, we are moving forward. We will work to find room for the additional students who are coming. We will continue the work of earning trust and showing that we are good stewards of taxpayer dollars. This bond was almost exclusively focused on additional classrooms needed for current and future students. You’ll hear more from us soon regarding plans for the future. For now, the work continues as we provide exceptional instruction for our students.”
Money from the 2017 bond is currently being used to build a new addition to the high school to help relieve overcrowding. The addition is expected to hold an additional 600 students.
CROSBY MUD BOND—PASSED
The Crosby Municipal Utility District is celebrating the passage of their $20 million bond proposal. The narrow win came with a nine-vote margin, 103—94 voting for. Two similar votes over the last few years failed both times by the same amount of a couple dozen.“I’m excited it passed,” said Steven Schreiber, president of Crosby MUD. “Even if we sold them right away, it would take eight to nine months before we would see any kind of construction,” he said.
Schreiber also said they would only sell the bonds as they needed them, limiting any kind of impact to taxpayers.
The big money, he said, would be spent on the infrastructure. Approximately $1.5 million on the wastewater treatment plant, $6.77 million on water supply, $2.24 million on wastewater collection system, $5.799 million on water distribution system, $1.57 million on lift station improvements, and the remainder on other improvements throughout the system.
“We’re trying to stay up with the growth, but it’s not easy,” he said. Schreiber said they could see a mountain of growth coming and adding more taps would be on the agenda for the foreseeable future.
Schreiber also believes voters understood there was no increase to their rates with this bond, but if it had failed, it was inevitable that water rates would have increased to meet the burden of maintenance and expansion.
“We all live in this community. We didn’t want to have to raise rates, but that was inevitable if the bond didn’t pass,” he said.
The monthly increase could have been as much as $50 and would have been burdensome to families in a tight economy.
“We are so tightly regulated we don’t have a lot of wiggle room with agencies like TCEQ and the Water Board,” he said.
Crosby MUD has been fortunate enough to secure grants to take care of other projects with matching funds and grants in the millions.
“It was a grant that allowed us to get the new building erected. The grants are great, and we’ve been lucky to get one five out of the last six years,” he said, “but you can’t always bank on that.” The board met on Tuesday to canvass the votes and begin making plans.
GOOSE CREEK CISD BOND—FAILED
Goose Creek CISD sought $386,310,000 in their three propositions. Proposition A had the largest ticket item with $285 million to replace the main building at Sterling High School with structural foundation, and replace Winnie Brown Gym, natatorium, and vocational building. An additional $24 million would have been used for safety and security upgrades, another $15 million for facility upgrades throughout the district including new roofs, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. Another $6.2 million would have been spent on replacing 35 buses, athletic updates throughout the district, and $510,000 on the demolition of old San Jacinto Elementary School. Proposition B would have addressed ADA standards at Stallworth, structural repairs at the stadium, replace the press box, and updates on the concourse, concession stands, fine arts locker rooms, and restrooms. Proposition C addressed a network hardware refresh and technology throughout the district.
Proposition A failed with 2,560 (43.85%) for and 3,278 (56.15 % ) against. Proposition B failed with a wider margin of 1,986 (34.23%) against and 3,816 (65.77%) against. Voters turned down Proposition C with 2,117 (36.68%) voting for and 3,655 (63.32%) against.
“We fully accept that despite the gallant effort to inform our citizens about our district needs, that economic times, political climate, and personal hardship some of our community may be facing, have likely impacted this result. The needs have not gone away and still exist. District administrators will begin to identify alternative ways to consider how to address our most critical needs. We too are hopeful that our national, regional, and local economic circumstances improve in the near future,” said Superintendent Dr. Randal O’Brien.
The superintendent wasn’t disheartened but was back on the road visiting campuses and was at the meeting of the Highlands Chamber of Commerce.
“Our school board and administration listened to the voice of the community, and they said no. Not this time,” he said resolutely.
The needs are still there, and O’Brien said they would come back to it.
“When you separate the projects out, you get a better feel. A was focused on academics, B on athletics, and Prop C on technology. Academics had the closest margin. Our community feels for the need, it’s just things are tight right now,” he said.
With compression from the state legislature, the district’s tax rate will drop 20 cents this year. Even with the passage of the bond, it would have only taken 8 cents of that drop leaving taxpayers with a reduction of 12 cents.
Despite 62 public forums, 31 of those at a campus specifically for those teachers, the election did attract a higher vote than in previous years, which was a good thing according to O’Brien.
Goose Creek CISD currently fits about in the middle in comparison with tax rates to other school districts.
“We aspire to be the lowest and get the greatest value for that, but the flip side of the coin is you have to invest in your future,” he said. “If we wait too long, we’ll have portable buildings around every single campus,” he said.
Just to house the students at Sterling High School would require between 80 and 100 portable buildings at just over $100,000 each not including installation, plumbing, electrical, internet, sidewalks that are ADA compliant and numerous other required amenities. To replace the 35 school buses will cost more than $100,000 per bus. The bond would have eased that amount from coming out of the general fund.
O’Brien said they would go back and figure out how to meet some of the immediate needs and continue educating students.
HUFFMAN ISD BOND — PASSED
Superintendent Dr. Benny Soileau thanked the community for passing the $92 million Proposition A on the ballot last Tuesday. The proposal addresses aging buildings, the building of a new career Center, new police and academic training building, safety and security throughout the district, additional technology, and new school buses.
Soileau said that even with the passage of the bond, the district would still need to tighten the financial belt because of inflation and the loss of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) in January 2024.
“During COVID, we had extra needs and the government provided us the money through ESSER funds to hire the people we needed,” Soileau said. “Now, those funds go away, and we’re left with a tough of decision of what to do with those hires. The needs are still there,” he said.
Soileau was disappointed with state leaders, some who called for a no vote to all school bonds.
“I think it’s time for the leadership to step up and tell us if they have a better option on how to finance these buildings and put kids where they need to have a place where they can be educated,” Soileau said.
He was also put out by the requirement from legislators to place the statement on the ballot that the bond was a tax increase.
“Now, we’re making statements at the ballot box that it’s a tax increase even if the district has a zero-cent tax impact, if it’s not going to raise their taxes a single penny,” the frustrated superintendent said.
“We had many hurdles that we had to overcome. We have had multiple special sessions where school funding and vouchers had been talked about. People are more divided than they’ve been in quite some time. Certainly, Austin is more divided than it’s been in quite some time. And we even had to overcome obstacles like our own state representatives making statements that voters should not pass school bonds,” he said.
Soileau said they will sit down and put together timelines for the projects.
“We’ll ask our oversight committee to help make a plan moving forward,” he said.
John Reynolds, a longtime resident and retired ag teacher, has agreed to chair that committee.