Voters in Willis ISD will face an important decision on Nov. 3: Alongside voting for candidates at the national, state and local level, they can either check “For” or “Against” the school district’s Proposition A.

Proposition A is a proposal for the issuance of $100.15 million in bonds for the construction and renovation of school buildings, including new gyms and a new pre-K center, with no property tax rate increase.

The district originally called for a $175 million bond package—with $100.15 million Proposition A, $62.35 million Proposition B and $12.5 million Proposition C—for the May election but pushed it to November due to the pandemic. Proposition B included a new football stadium at Willis High School and other athletic facility improvements, and Proposition C would have funded a new natatorium, or swimming pool.

In August, the board of trustees canceled this bond package, choosing to present just Proposition A to voters due to the economic conditions presented by the pandemic, Superintendent Tim Harkrider said in a Sept. 29 interview. Under the original bond package, there could have been a maximum tax rate increase of $0.07 per $100 valuation, but no tax rate increase under just Prop. A, he said.

“It was just a situation where everybody was kind of in unrest; our whole country was going through an economic crisis,” Harkrider said. “The board went back to what’s best for our community, how is our community going to accept this during the economic crisis.”

Proposition A projects include:

  • facility improvements for $55.57 million;

  • a gym at Parmley Elementary for $2.16 million;

  • a gym at Cannan Elementary for $2.16 million;

  • a gym at Meador Elementary for $2.16 million;

  • a gym at Turner Elementary for $2.16 million;

  • classroom additions at Lucas Middle School for $14.06 million; and

  • a new pre-K center for $21.88 million.

The language on the ballot, which can be viewed here on Page 12, states, “This is a property tax increase.”

Harkrider said this could be misleading to voters. School districts control their tax rates, but overall property taxes can still rise depending on home appraisals. Proposition A does not increase the district’s tax rate; however, the school district could still collect more money if property values increase.

Property values have generally risen across the board in Montgomery County since at least 2015, according to data from the Montgomery County Appraisal District.

Meanwhile, projects outlined in propositions B and C will need to be addressed at a later date, although Harkrider said he is not sure when that will be. The district’s stadium has hit capacity at nearly every home football game—except during the pandemic because WISD imposed a lower capacity limitation—and swimmers currently practice at the Conroe Aquatic Center because the district does not have a pool.

“[Proposition] A felt like it was more needed,” Harkrider said. “Now, that doesn’t mean Prop. B and C aren’t still needed.”

Harkrider also noted passing a bond is only the first step. The $55 million in facility renovations outlined in Proposition A will likely take three years to complete if passed, he said.