Voters in Arlington will decide this week whether to approve a property tax increase to pay for more than $663 million in improvements for the Arlington Independent School District.
It's become a heated debate as political action committees for and against launch an all-out blitz, trying to win voters to their respective sides.
It's hard to miss the signs they've posted all over the city and they said that's by design — because both groups believe this vote will have a significant impact on the future of Arlington.
"We have an opportunity here to help our schools," said Jeff Williams, Chairman of Arlington First, a PAC that supports the bond issue.
"I think that we can do better," said Faith Bussey, a member of It's OK To Vote No, a PAC that opposes the bond issue.
Among the things the $663.1 million school bond would pay for are two new elementary schools, a new career and technical center, new buses, several security and technology upgrades, and improvements to athletic facilities at high schools. The list was compiled by a 38-member steering committee tasked with assessing the district’s needs and later approved by the AISD School Board.
Arlington First said the district has been frugal with its money for several years, pointing out that Arlington has the third-lowest tax rate among Tarrant County school districts — and argues now is a critical time to make an investment in education to ensure students and the city have a leg up in an increasingly competitive job market.
"One of the number one reasons that businesses move to communities is because of strong schools," said Williams. "An investment in our schools is so key to our community’s success."
It's OK To Vote No said it's not denying AISD has needs, but believes the district is asking taxpayers for too much. They argue that several things the money would pay for, like a new swimming / diving pool, have nothing to do with learning and are excessive. They also say keeping Arlington’s tax rates low will help attract more people and businesses to the area.
"It's $663 million, not including the interest we're going to have to pay on it," said Bussey. "It's burdening our kids and raising our taxes."
If the bond issue passes, AISD estimates it will cost a homeowner with a $100,000 home an extra $126 each year in property taxes.
Early voting continues through Tuesday. The general election will take place on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
To view a complete list of what this bond issue would pay for, click on the following link: http://www.aisd.net/bond/.