Calling the fifth bond since 2013, the Comal ISD board of trustees is seeking a record $634 million for the May 6 election—the largest in the district’s history.
If successful, the bond would be the fourth implemented by the district in eight years, and it follows a pattern of the district trying to keep up with continued, rapid growth. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, Comal County grew by more than 45,000 residents between the 2015 and 2021 bonds.
The school district itself—which encircles New Braunfels ISD and includes portions of New Braunfels, covering a total of 589 square miles stretching into a small sliver of Bexar County as well as Guadalupe, Hays and Kendall counties—grew by more than 4,000 students in that same time period.
While the bond is below the $650 million mark—a threshold the district determined would not increase its property tax rate—property appraisals continue to rise within the district, according to the Comal Appraisal District. The property tax rate in CISD is $1.27 per $100 of valuation with a 20% homestead exemption.
Bond at a glance
The board of trustees voted 6-1 to move forward with the bond election Feb. 15.
The bond package, totaling $634.66 million, was put together over the course of five months by the district’s Comal Forward Committee, a group of 65 parents, staff, students and community members.
While putting together the propositions, the committee focused on various district needs. Accommodating for district growth was a top priority. The district’s demographic report shows CISD is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade.
“There were many, many, many millions of dollars of needs that were brought before the Comal Forward Committee and the board that did not make the list. And so we could have recommended a package that was much larger, that really met every request,” said Jessica Shopoff, a parent, former educator and Comal Forward Committee member. “And yet we really, really pushed the balance of meeting needs by meeting the most urgent and most important needs and then balancing that with the need to protect the taxpayer that we all are and make sure that our funds are being used well.”
This year, voters will have the option to consider and vote for three propositions: propositions A, B and C.
The board decided to switch the order of the bond package to propositions A, C and B on the ballot.
Proposition A totals $560.56 million and will consist of three new elementary schools that would provide relief to Bill Brown, Johnson Ranch, Oak Creek and Freiheit elementary schools. There will also be one new middle school to offset growth at Canyon Middle School. Funding would also go toward land acquisition and buses.
The elementary school providing relief to Bill Brown would be located west of the I-35 corridor along •Hwy. 46. The elementary school providing relief to Johnson Ranch would be located in the Johnson Ranch/Hidden Trails development area. The elementary school providing relief to Oak Creek and Freiheit along with the middle school aimed to offset Canyon Middle School growth would be located off of I-35 in the Mayfair development.
Proposition C costs $28 million and would go toward purchasing technology equipment, such as audiovisual devices and enhanced Wi-Fi. These funds would also go toward the purchase of student learning devices and wide area networks across the district.
Proposition B totals $46.09 million and would make improvements to athletic facilities at the districts’ high schools, including new bleachers at Canyon Lake and Davenport high schools. The funds would also be used for a field house at Davenport.
Four bonds in eight years
The last time voters approved a bond was in 2021, when $411.3 million went toward building two new elementary schools and a new middle school, land acquisition, and infrastructure projects across the district.
The district has a history of passing bonds in the years prior. In 2017, voters passed a $263.5 million bond dedicated to building new schools and purchasing school buses. In 2015, voters passed a $147.4 million bond that also directed funds for new schools, maintenance issues, and safety and security.
York emphasized his appreciation of the work of the board, faculty, staff and the Comal Forward Committee.
“We are an ever-growing district, and I do appreciate the passion, and really the board coming together and approving this bond for 2023,” CISD board President Jason York told Community Impact.
Shopoff said CISD did not see a rapid decline in enrollment as other districts did during the pandemic.
“While it slowed a little bit, it just did not show any evidence of giving up anytime soon,” Shopoff said. “I think a lot of the parents come from schools where they’re built, and they’re open, and within a few years, they’re already reaching capacity. And so I think we’ve started to realize that we’re going to have to continue to keep up with that growth across the district.”
Some residents voiced skepticism about the bond at the Feb. 15 meeting.
“We didn’t build a complete school. We’ve got about two-thirds of a school down there right now. It’s missing a bunch of facilities that all the other high schools in the district have,” resident Todd Arvidson said. “The time has come; it’s time to finish Davenport. We need to get it complete.”
He also said there could be a “potential block” to vote the bond down if it does not complete Davenport, noting the high school does not have a field house and other amenities.