Pearland ISD is asking voters for a bond package totaling $105 million, which officials say could help keep up with the district’s infrastructure and technology needs.

The package—split up into two bond propositions—will appear on the May 4 ballot after the district’s board approved calling for the election at its Feb. 13 meeting. The two bond propositions would fund $75 million for infrastructure and $30 million for technology, district documents show.

The infrastructure proposition will focus on electrical upgrades; heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC; roof and parking lot replacements; among other projects. The technology proposition will focus mostly on teacher and student personal computers, servers and storage.

The overview

After PISD’s voter-approval tax rate election, or VATRE, was approved last November, PISD was able to put an additional $11.2 million in revenue into its budget, allowing the district to pay for various student and staffing needs, PISD Superintendent Larry Berger said.

The VATRE, however, was aimed at filling gaps within the district’s maintenance and operations budget, or M&O, and wasn’t intended, nor is it enough, to meet the infrastructural and technological needs within the district, Berger said. The bond, as a result, is “part two” of handling those needs, he said.

However, Sue Matthews, a former PISD parent and current resident, said she believes the district isn’t in the right financial position to go for another bond, and doesn’t want it to take on more debt.

“I feel we are already indebted enough and don’t need to add to it,” Matthews said. “[Families] have to set a budget ... and stay within your means, and I think [PISD] needs to do the same.”

The Texas Bond Review Board shows PISD ranks No. 92 in the state in outstanding debt with about $358.8 million—about one-third of the debt of nearby districts like Alvin ISD and Clear Creek ISD.

The last bond for PISD was in 2016 for $220 million, officials said. It was meant to help with district growth, aging facilities, and technological and security insufficiencies.

Texas Education Agency data shows PISD had 21,093 students enrolled in the 2015-16 school year—and officials expected that to increase. Enrollment, however, plateaued. Despite this, Berger said it doesn’t take away the need for a bond.

“We have to take care of the buildings and infrastructure that we have,” Berger said. “We have the capacity to pay for those bonds without increasing the tax.”
A breakdown of PISD's new bond and a map showing schools and how much of the bond money is expected to go to them for projects. (Pearland ISD/Community Impact)

What they're saying

“It [sounds] like there is a lot of thought and planning going into the future to build up capital reserves. We’re starting from day one now," PISD board trustee Toni Carter said at the district's Feb. 13 meeting.

"You’re taking out another $105 million. ... That’s going to add up. We’re going to have to pay for it eventually. I feel like they should not add because we’re already so far in debt," said Sue Matthews, former PISD parent and current Pearland resident.

“We have done facility assessments and technology financial planning. We are making sure that we are strategic and comprehensive in bringing these proposals to our voters," Berger said.

What else?

PISD officials said the district’s property tax rate will not be affected by the bonds if they pass, as the current rate of $1.1373 per $100 valuation can pay for them.

The tax rate is made up of the district’s M&O rate and its interest and sinking, or I&S, rate. The I&S rate helps the district pay off its debt as well as take on more of it, such as through bonds, Berger said in a video from the district’s website.

If the bond isn’t passed, Berger said it could mean possibly having to request another tax rate increase. Depending on how the board responds to the bond’s failure, the I&S tax rate might go down. If this occurs, options for the board include:
  • Using the current rate to pay off existing debt
  • Lowering the tax rate and keeping existing debt
  • A combination of the first two options

Stay tuned

In the time leading up to the May 4 election, Berger said he is urging voters to become knowledgeable of both bond propositions. The district’s website has a section for information about the bond proposition, and it offers an option for residents and organizations to request a bond presentation from district officials.

“As a school district, we are not advocating one way or the other. We are just trying to present the facts and allow the voters to use their voice on May 4,” Berger said.

Some dates to know about the bond election include:
  • Feb. 13: Board approved bond election
  • April 22-30: Early voting for May election
  • May 4: Election day
  • May 14: Results are canvassed