Northside ISD voters in San Antonio to mull $992 million bond proposal in May

The Northside ISD proposed $992 million bond issue calls for replacement of fine arts facilities and other improvements at Clark High School, among other projects districtwide. (Courtesy Google Streets)
The Northside ISD proposed $992 million bond issue calls for replacement of fine arts facilities and other improvements at Clark High School, among other projects districtwide. (Courtesy Google Streets)

The Northside ISD proposed $992 million bond issue calls for replacement of fine arts facilities and other improvements at Clark High School, among other projects districtwide. (Courtesy Google Streets)

Northside ISD will float a $992 million bond package in the May 7 local election, with most of the funds proposed to cover improvements to existing campuses such as Clark High School and Colonies North Elementary School.

The NISD board unanimously voted Jan. 25 to put the single-proposition bond on the ballot, with district officials saying no new property tax rate increase will be needed to support approved projects.

With more than 102,600 students enrolled in the current academic year, NISD is Texas’s fourth biggest public school district. NISD voters have approved the school district’s last eight bond issues, dating back to 1995.

A 250-member citizens bond committee reviewed existing NISD facilities and collected input from district residents and employees to develop proposed projects.

District officials said the newest and biggest bond proposal to date will help NISD to keep pace with growth and address older schools, more than half of which are more than 20 years old. The oldest NISD campus is nearly 70 years old.

“Clearly, closing the gap between old and new is what dominated the 2018 proposal,” Superintendent Brian Woods said. “It is what more so dominates this proposal.”

If approved, the bond would pay for construction of one new elementary school in the fast-growing Alamo Ranch neighborhood area. Tentatively called Village at West Pointe West, the new campus is estimated to cost $45 million.

Regarding the eastern, older portion of the district, the new bond proposes among other things:

  • $56 million to replace fine arts facilities at Clark High School;

  • classroom, gymnasium and cafeteria replacements at campuses such as Colonies North Elementary School;

  • $24.8 million for magnet facilities upgrades at Hobby Middle School;

  • $8 million to modernize all school libraries; and

  • $6.8 million for new physical education sensory play areas at elementary schools.

The 2022 NISD bond also proposes a range of smaller projects districtwide, including:

  • heating/cooling/ventilation equipment replacements at campuses such as Colonies North and Locke Hill elementary schools and Clark High School;

  • new rooftops at Hobby Middle School;

  • energy control upgrades at Hobby and Rawlinson middle schools;

  • electrical upgrades at Locke Hill Elementary School;

  • tennis court upgrades at Clark High, Rawlinson Elementary, and Hobby Middle schools;

  • new flooring at Locke Hill Elementary School;

  • waterproofing at Hobby Middle and Rawlinson and Blattman elementary schools;

  • fire alarm replacements at Colonies North Elementary School; and

  • door hardware replacement at Colonies North and Blattman elementary schools.

Additionally, an approved bond would support surveillance camera replacements at various district facilities, access-control and technology improvements, and new buses, NISD officials said.

The bond also would allocate $23.7 million for a new district baseball/softball complex adjacent to the new Sonia Sotomayor High School that is under construction near Government Canyon State Natural Area, according to proposals.

District officials said they were not including in the new bond an initial proposal to replace the 50-year-old Block Aquatic Center. They added that some other, smaller projects initially considered for the bond could be funded using current district savings.

Woods said his administration is mindful about how current inflationary trends could affect estimated costs of proposed bond projects, many of which, if approved, will not begin until the mid-2020s.

“We wanted to be able to make promises on projects that we could keep,” Woods said of cost estimates.

Woods said because of action taken by the Texas Legislature in 2021, ballot language will reference a tax increase for the proposed bond even though district officials are not recommending a property tax rate hike.

“We have had for quite a while an opinion from our bond adviser that up to $1 billion in bond-related debt for these projects would not cause a tax rate increase,” Woods said.

Some school board members expressed displeasure over the state-required bond ballot language, saying the verbiage could confuse prospective voters.

“[The state is] making us lie on our bond proposal,” District 3 Trustee M'Lissa M. Chumbley said.

Trustees asked district staff to clarify the tax rate situation for NISD residents when the district provides details about the proposed bond, a process that will include public meetings ahead of the May 7 election.

“It’s a lot of work to do going forward,” board President Karen Freeman said.

By Edmond Ortiz
Edmond joined Community Impact as a reporter in August 2021, helping to launch new editions in the San Antonio market. Edmond covers various beats in the North San Antonio coverage area. He previously was the main reporter for Local Community News, covering several areas in and around San Antonio, first as a freelancer and then staff member. Prior to that, Edmond was a community news reporter for Prime Time Newspapers and the San Antonio Express-News, including editing two community weeklies. He's a San Antonio native, and studied mass communications at San Antonio College and Texas State University.