A multimillion dollar Coppell ISD bond is on the ballot for voters to consider in May.

The proposed package features four propositions ranging from $9.5 million to $269.5 million. If approved, it will address renovations at all CISD campuses, safety and security investments throughout the district, improvements to Coppell High School’s tennis center, technology upgrades and more.

Improving CISD’s elementary schools is one of the district’s priorities. The bulk of the bond is earmarked for upkeep, which includes renovations and pre-K classroom additions at schools like Austin Elementary School and Lakeside Elementary School. The board of trustees would make the final decision on which schools would receive renovations under the 2023 bond.

Districtwide maintenance and elementary school projects will account for $173.2 million of the total amount, according to bond details.

“[Elementary] schools have not had much capital improvements done," CISD Board President David Caviness said. "This bond is really focusing on our elementary and younger students."

The last CISD bond passed in 2016, with the goal of that $249 million package to address the district’s rapid growth—achieved by building three new campuses and expanding existing ones. The 2023 bond targets improvements to CISD’s aging facilities, as 43% of the schools are over 30 years old, according to district data.

“We're going to have our work cut out for us to present [the bond package] to the citizens and our stakeholders and educate them on the needs,” Caviness said. “We look forward to making the case to the public on what the needs are and why the work included in these final recommendations are so important to the students of our district.”

On the ballot

Voters will be asked to vote for or against each of the four propositions.
  • Proposition A, which is $269.58 million, will address priority condition improvements at all CISD campuses. New playgrounds and playground shading would be built at 10 elementary schools. Nine of the 11 elementary schools would receive an interior refresh, which includes new flooring and painting. The proposition also includes safety and security features at all schools and buildings. A portion of the safety and security budget would go toward new door hardware and locks for all classrooms, which would enable teachers to lock doors from the inside.
Adding these safety and security features to the bond was critical, said Jim Walker, bond steering committee co-chair.

“With everything we've seen with the different school shootings and all those tragedies, we very badly needed to upgrade our security,” he said.

In addition to playgrounds, safety and security, Proposition A also includes roof replacement, roof repairs and site improvements to all schools and buildings.
  • Proposition B, which is $39.47 million, includes upgrades to district technology and life cycle replacements of student and staff devices. Campuses would also receive Wi-Fi improvements and audiovisual upgrades and replacements.
  • Proposition C is $2.93 million and focuses on Buddy Echols Field at Coppell High School. The facility would receive turf and track life cycle replacements and seat backs for spectators.
  • Proposition D is $9.52 million and targets life cycle turf replacement for Coppell High School’s field house. The tennis center would also receive improvements and a locker room expansion.
The majority of the committee’s recommendations sought to address basic needs. Dilan Patel, Coppell High School senior and bond steering committee co-chair, said the committee prioritized projects of the highest importance.

“We really just decided, regarding the price of everything and what it includes and the current economic environment, is it right to put them on the current bond package?” he said.

If the bond is passed, the new tax rate of $1.2917 will be $0.0744 more than the current rate. The proposed rate, however, will remain lower than the fiscal year 2021-22 tax rate and in previous fiscal years, keeping pace with the district’s gradual tax rate decline.

“[The district’s] interest and sinking tax rate, which is used to pay off the bonds, is also one of the lowest in [Dallas-Fort Worth],” CISD Superintendent Brad Hunt said in an email. “Should enrollment grow or home values grow, the district may not have to raise the interest and sinking tax rate for this bond.”

Raising awareness of CISD’s needs

A large number of CISD campuses are overdue for maintenance, according to a facility condition report. Of the district’s 21 campuses and facilities, 13 were considered to be below standard.

The district’s fine arts programs have outgrown its spaces, Caviness said. The bond would bring a new fine arts rehearsal building to Coppell High School and expand the fine arts rehearsal space at Coppell Middle School North.

“They are bursting at the seams,” he said. “Being able to provide them finally with an adequate space was, in my mind, something that didn't need to be pushed off.”

The high school’s tennis center has also outgrown its space and is overdue for upgrades, Caviness said.

The bond package is the culmination of three years of work. Three committees were formed between 2019 and 2022; all were tasked with envisioning the district’s future.

After a series of meetings, public forums and surveys, the bond steering committee recommended a facilities master plan totaling $511 million. The feedback from the surveys, however, indicated CISD voters were more likely to support a $320 million bond package.

The bond steering committee recommended a 10-year phasing plan so the district’s most urgent needs could be addressed in the 2023 bond package. Remaining recommendations will be proposed for a future bond.

While the phasing plan delays work on schools that are in need of improvements, splitting the $511 million package in two helps minimize the tax rate impact—a factor in Caviness’ decision to call for the election, he said.

“People want to keep their taxes low, and I'm one of those too; I'll raise my hand on that all day long. But there's some things that we just have to do,” he said. “Breaking this up allows us to be more fiscally responsible in managing that tax rate impact to our community and stakeholders and taxpayers at the end of the day.”

Caviness was one of six board members to call for the election. CISD Board Member Manish Sethi was the only member to oppose, citing concerns with the bond’s large amount. Sethi supported adding pre-K spaces but said it would be best to delay renovations for a future bond.

“I want more than what’s presented, but I do not agree with going for a five-year estimated selling of the bond,” he said during the board’s Feb. 13 meeting. “If the prices don't work, we’ll be in bigger trouble.”

Concerns about personal finances amid inflation could be one reason why survey participants were hesitant to support a larger bond, Walker said.

“We're in a very difficult financial time for a lot of families. When you look at the price of eggs, the price of fuel to get around, the price of energy, everything is gone sky high. It's a difficult environment to issue bonds and to call for bonds.”

The bond includes an inflation contingency as part of the costs, Hunt said. If the bond is not passed, the district would have to look to see how they could address what was identified by the committees using existing funds.

“With slowing enrollment and adopted budget deficits, difficult decisions may need to be made to ensure that we could continue to provide the facilities and programs for our current and future students,” he said.

While the bond’s price tag may cause concern, it would be costlier to wait, Walker said.

“We probably end up costing more down the road if we neglect to repair roofs and we neglect to replace the flooring and the air conditioning systems, almost all of which are well beyond their projected lifecycle,” he said. “Even if the voters approve all of it, [CISD is] still going to try to bring it in as inexpensively as possible.”

Community benefit

Those involved in the bond’s creation said it will provide long-lasting benefits for CISD students and the community.

Students were more involved in this bond process than ever. Patel was one of five high school seniors who were invited to join the committee.

“It was a great honor to be a student elected by a committee of mainly adults to lead,” he said. “A student body ensures more transparency.”

Patel grew up in the district’s school system. As a member of Coppell High School’s fine arts program, he has first-hand knowledge of its needs.

Since Patel is a senior, he will not reap the bond’s benefits if it is passed. However, the quality education incoming students would receive because of the work proposed in the bond would set them up for success, he said.

“Everything in the bond just emphasizes how we prioritize student and teacher needs. Keeping up with modern trends, keeping our buildings new and fresh, it's gonna be the best for students. It's going to really set them apart and give them an advantage wherever they end up post high school.”

Walker has been a Coppell resident for 25 years. Like many families, he was drawn to the area because of its school system.

“One reason that it's so easy to sell a home in Coppell and there's so much demand for our homes is the school district,” he said. “It's really important to all of us, if you own a home in Coppell, that the school district do as well as it can going forward.”

The bond package is an investment in the community and provides the next generation with better opportunities, Caviness said.

“Doing this work and the projects that are being recommended through the bond issuance note sets the district up for the next 30 to 40 years,” he said.