Dallas ISD May Ask Voters for $2.5 Billion for Its Aging Schools

With nearly a billion dollars in bonds yet to be sold from its last bond election, Dallas ISD is setting the stage to ask voters for billions more for its aging schools.Officials prepped DISD’s board of trustees during this month’s briefing, setting out an 18-month timeline that could call for a bond election at the next U.S. presidential election: Nov. 3, 2020.While details have yet to be hashed out, deputy superintendent for operations Scott Layne and chief financial officer Dwayne Thompson laid out a hypothetical of what that bond might look like: $2.5 billion, with the first bond sale coming in August 2022.The district could manage that figure -- which, if approved by voters, would be the largest bond in DISD history -- without raising the interest and sinking tax rate over the current $0.24 rate, Thompson said.Voters overwhelmingly approved a $1.6 billion bond for construction needs in 2015 -- also without changing the tax rate.A report commissioned by DISD at that time said that the 2015 bond would only go halfway to addressing the district’s facility needs by 2020.The average age of DISD’s 200-plus schools is 52 years; eight years more than the national average.New bond funding “would take care of the district over the next five to seven years,” Layne said, addressing $1.5 billion in needed renovations for existing campuses and providing over $500 million for the construction of 16 new schools.“We’ll probably have to make some hard decisions down the road on what can be included,” Layne said.Over the past few years, the district has tried to be more methodical on how it addresses construction needs. But that effort hasn’t come without criticism.In the fall, DISD finalized its first-ever long-range master plan, gathering data on facilities, building capacity, technology assessments and instructional needs over a 15-month process.DISD used that data to create a strategic facilities plan, trying to find a balance between its aging schools and declining school enrollment. But the initial draft -- which called for closing 22 campuses and demolishing 47 schools -- drew heavy opposition.  Continue reading...

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