Round Rock Independent School District (RRISD) voted last Thursday night to use bond money to build two new wings to Round Rock High School. The vote, 6-1 (Terri Romere voted no), was to spend $46.4 million on 2 new wings at RRHS. $36.5million of that is from “leftover” bond money which taxpayers approved for other projects.
Many taxpayers and legislators are unaware that bond money can be approved by the taxpayers for one project, and used for another.
Round Rock ISD Superintendent Jesus Chavez told the board that the public should be pleased that the district saved bond money and has the money to spend on other projects.
I spoke at the board meeting and pointed out that RRISD is $744 million in debt, and with interest added over $1.1 billion in debt. The “left over” bond money should be used to pay down the debt. Local governments in Texas are a whopping $322 billion in debt, the majority of that being school district debt.
The best interest of the students is not to leave them this legacy of debt.
Additionally, taxpayers don’t deserve a “bait and switch” plan where voters approve a bond project and trust that the amount approved will cover the project.
If the voter-approved project comes in under budget, should that money be used for other projects or to pay down the massive school district debt?
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NOTE: Some ISD’s rely on bond money to improve their schools, but that money is expensive as it carries interest. Some rich districts find a tax shelter in bonds. The $29.9 billion bond plan passed May 12, 2012.
And bond money is increasingly being used for items with a short life-span. The Eanes Independent School District purchased about 1,700 iPads with $835,000 of bond money. While the bond was approved in part to purchase “technology”, many parents said they were expressly told it would not be used to purchase iPads.