Editor’s note: This story originally included ballot language that is now outdated. The attendance credit election will be listed on the May 6 ballot as Proposition A. The 2023 bond will be listed as propositions B, C and D.

Voters will decide on a slate of campus improvements, renovations and maintenance as well as a new kindergarten to eighth-grade campus and natatorium in San Marcos CISD on May 6.

The bond package totals $166.19 million and would also increase the property tax rate by $0.0426, or charging $89.41 more a year on a home valued at $250,000, according to an analysis provided by the financial consulting firm Tijerina, Galvan, Lawrence LLC.

The district called for the $166.19 million bond at a Feb. 13 board of trustees meeting.

The last time SMCISD called a bond was in 2017 for $107.3 million. The 2017 bond was for additional classrooms at several elementary schools, technology and security infrastructure, transportation and one new elementary school.

Also on the ballot is Proposition A, a measure for voters to decide whether to authorize the school district to purchase average daily attendance credits from the Texas Education Agency with local tax revenue—also known as recapture—as property values in SMCISD have exceeded what Chapter 49 of the Texas Education Code considers to be “local revenue in excess of entitlement,” according to the TEA.

If passed, SMCISD would be able to make its recapture payments to the state. If it fails, the SMCISD would be considered a “detachment territory,” which means Texas would “detach” a portion of the district’s total property value.

As a result, SMCISD might need to raise the interest and sinking tax rate to pay existing debt with a smaller tax base after territory is detached.

Prioritizing district needs

The district formed a Facility Oversight Committee made up of 30 individuals, 21 of which were appointed by school board members with the remaining nine asked by Superintendent Michael Cardona to put together the bond propositions. School board members appointed three people each.

“We put in people that we thought we could talk to that would go out and talk to other people,” SMCISD board President Clementine Cantu said.

Cantu said members suggested prioritizing renovations to bring all schools up to the same standards of facilities and amenities.

“It was pretty diverse. We had educators, noneducators, business people, community people,” she said.

During its Feb. 13 meeting, the board voted 5-2 to call a bond election with Trustees Brian Shanks and Mari Salmi dissenting.

Proposition B is estimated to cost about $147.72 million, which includes districtwide safety infrastructure, technology and transportation items. This option also has improvements for many campuses, including site maintenance, classroom additions, parking/drop-off enlargements, digital marquee additions and mechanical replacements.

Proposition C will cost $984,563 to replace field turf at Rattler Stadium.

Proposition D will cost about $17.48 million for a natatorium building, which will have a 25-by-25-yard pool and support space.

Shanks said he thought the board failed to provide the bond committee with a “strategic plan” and “strategic vision” to guide them.

“With the capacity increase of 200 students with the new construction, using the moderate guidelines for growth in [the] 2025-2026 school year, we will be at 93% capacity, which we are currently at 94% capacity,” Shanks said. “So in one year’s time after the school has been built, assuming it’s built in one year, we will already almost be at the same problem that we’re at right now with an overcrowded school.”

Although stating she will support the bond, Salmi dissented because she wanted to make sure the district was prepared to get the bond they needed passed.

“I felt a little like this was rushed and that we needed to spend a little more time preparing the community to understand what our needs are,” Salmi said. “Not as many community members got to participate as I would have liked because the organization of that group of people happened very quickly, and then those people needed to participate every week on the same day, so if that scheduled time didn’t meet their schedule, they weren’t able to participate.”

Other members of the board—such as Vice President Miguel Arredondo—thought that the district was reaching a point where it was seeing “moderate capacity challenges” at campuses and “major mechanical systems reaching end of life.”

“I think one of the biggest pieces is the investments in our transportation system, replacing aging school buses. Not only does that benefit the ISD, but more up-to-date vehicles means less emissions on the roads and in the community. The investments to safety and security are things that are desperately needed given the time that we all find ourselves to be living in,” Arredondo said. “There were things that the ISD just wasn’t able to accomplish in the 2017 bond proposition, and those things were deferred to the next bond conversation, and so we asked the community to have those conversations, and I think that’s where you see the natatorium.”

Salmi noted the majority of the funds in Proposition B would go toward rebuilding Mendez Elementary School into a new K-8 campus.

“There’s a big discrepancy in the building that those students are learning in as compared to other campuses that we have. And It’s time for us to stop spending so much on maintenance and various ad hoc kinds of improvements to Mendez. ... rebuilding the campus makes fiscal sense because of the expenses associated with maintaining [it].”

Susan Seton, the president of San Marcos Educators Association, said there are several needs in the district.

“We are growing, and we have the need for more room for students. Right now, a lot of things are crammed in small spaces, and we’re just finding [a] closet here, closet there, and in order for us to keep growing with our surrounding area, we’ve got to make some changes,” Seton said. “We want kids to want to come to San Marcos schools, not just [those] that live here, but also the ones outside because we have some programs that rank up there.”

Some community members expressed that some questions they have are still unanswered. SMCISD parent Charis Jacobson said she would only consider voting for Proposition B as she felt there were a lot of unanswered questions.

“The school needs to be more clear to taxpayers,” Jacobson said. “I would just like them to be more specific about the pool. What is [it] going to cost per year for taxpayers?”

Cantu said the natatorium would put the district’s competitive swimmers on a more equal footing with surrounding districts.

“Some people in the community may not see the need for a natatorium, but our students that are swimmers are having to be put on a bus and go to [San Marcos Academy] out on Ranch Road 12 to do their swimming practices,” Cantu said.