Five Bexar County school districts are asking voters cast their ballots Monday in favor of bond packages that would accommodate growing student populations and tax rate changes that would bring in more revenue.

Early voting for the Nov. 2 elections starts Monday and goes through Oct. 29 at multiple locations across the county. Voters also will see eight state constitutional amendment propositions on their ballots.

Judson, Comal, East Central, and Southside Independent School Districts have proposed bond issues, while Alamo Heights and Comal ISDs are asking voters to approve tax rate changes that would increase local revenue. School districts must seek voter approval to adjust tax rates that bring in more property tax revenue under a 2019 school finance reform law, House Bill 3.

Read about each school district’s election below.

Judson ISD

Judson ISD has proposed a $302.5 million bond issue that would not raise the district’s tax rate but allow the district of about 24,000 students to build two new schools, update technology, and improve athletic facilities.

Superintendent Jeanette Ball said the bond package is necessary because of growth happening in the district, with new subdivisions and apartment complexes being built. Judson expects to add between 500 and 1,500 students per year over the next several years, depending on how quickly the new developments are built. The district recently added about 2,000 students after offering free, full-day pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, Ball said.

“My philosophy has always been that we need to lay out this beautiful buffet for our parents and for our students, and then the parents and the students get to pick what’s best for their child,” she said. “Parents have lots of choices, and we want their choice to be Judson ISD. But the choice will only be Judson if I can offer them the very best, and that’s what this bond helps us do.”

The $302.5 million bond package is divided into three propositions. Proposition A focuses on school improvement, devoting $252.3 million to building a new elementary and middle school and purchasing new buses. It also would allow Judson to install heating and air-conditioning in 16 school gyms that currently lack those systems and install maker space labs in 23 campuses. The maker space areas are flexible spaces where students can work together or on their own.

Proposition B would fund $14.9 million in athletic facility improvements. The school district would install artificial turf fields at Wagner High and Veterans Memorial High schools and replace the turf at Rutledge Stadium; all three fields would have new striping for soccer, as well. Judson would replace track surfaces at Wagner High and Rutledge Stadium and build new tennis courts at Kirby Middle and Judson Middle schools.

Proposition C would allow the district to spend $35.3 million upgrading technology devices for students to make sure every student has a device. It also would fund improvements to the entire district’s wireless internet infrastructure and security systems.

Ball said the district could accomplish all these projects without raising its tax rate, currently set at $1.27 per $100 in property tax valuation. The growth and planning committees that helped develop the bond package did not want to raise taxes during the pandemic, Ball said.

“People have lost their jobs. They’ve lost loved ones. It’s been a very tragic situation,” she said. “We didn’t want to cause any more undue burdens and put something on our taxpayers that was going to cause a hardship.”

East Central ISD

East Central ISD also expects to see extensive growth in the next 10 years, Superintendent Rolando Toscano said. That’s why the district of about 10,000 students has proposed a $175.5 million bond issue to build two new elementary schools and a new middle school, in addition to a new career and technical education facility.

Toscano said the district expects to add more than 7,000 students in the next 10 years, reaching an enrollment of 17,200 students in 2030. That projected 70% enrollment growth is a conservative estimate, the superintendent said during a bond package presentation. Some campuses are near reaching capacity, with Tradition Elementary School projected to surpass its capacity for 901 students in 2023. Heritage Middle School also will soon surpass its capacity for 1,335 students in 2024.

When schools reach 120% capacity, they start using every available space to educate students, Toscano said. Teachers would provide instruction in cafeteria and library spaces when they aren’t being used. East Central projects that Tradition Elementary and Heritage Middle schools will surpass 120% capacity before other campuses, and both are almost at capacity this school year.

“It’s not an operationally efficient way to utilize your space,” Toscano said. “It’s very difficult and presents some challenges for students and staff when your building is occupied at 120%.”

In addition to the new schools, the $175.5 million bond package would fund renovations to Highland Forest Elementary, Oak Crest Elementary, Heritage Middle, and Legacy Middle schools. The district would add pre-K and kindergarten spaces to Highland Forest Elementary and Oak Crest Elementary schools and a new restroom facility to Legacy Middle School. East Central also would build a new warehouse facility that would house its police department.

East Central ISD homeowners would not see an increase to their property tax rate right away, Toscano said. By 2025, the district would raise its tax rate by $0.1075 per $100 taxable value, increasing the current tax rate of $1.088 to $1.1955. Homeowners would see an annual increase in property taxes of about $108 per $100,000 taxable value or about $242 for a home valued at $250,000.

Comal ISD

The Comal school district is asking voters to approve a higher tax rate and a $527.5 million bond package to meet the fast-growing district’s needs. The district of roughly 27,000 students expects to add 7,500 students in the next five years, which means hiring 420 more teachers and other staff members, according to the district’s website.

If voters approve, Comal ISD would raise its tax rate from $1.2757 per $100 property valuation to $1.2920. The average home in Comal ISD is valued at $355,000, and the tax rate increase would raise property taxes about $168 per year for the average homeowner. A home valued at $500,000 would see a yearly tax increase of about $280.

With this tax rate increase, Comal ISD would raise teacher salaries and hourly pay rates for other staff members. Teachers, who currently start at $48,000 a year, and staff would receive a 3% annual pay increase over the next four years. Auxiliary personnel would receive a $1.50 hourly pay raise in 2021 and a 3% annual increase over the next three years. Right now, starting pay for auxiliary personnel ranges between $10 and $13.50 per hour.

Most of the $527.5 million bond issue — $411.3 million — would go toward constructing two new elementary schools and a new middle school, purchasing a replacement site for the Hill Country College Preparatory High School campus, buying 85 new buses, and funding security and infrastructure improvements at multiple campuses.

Another $61.4 million would fund upgrades to athletic facilities at Canyon High, Canyon Lake High, Davenport High, Mt. Valley Middle, Smithson Valley High, and Smithson Valley Middle schools. New athletics facilities would be built at Canyon High, Canyon Lake High, and Smithson Valley High schools. Comal ISD also would spend $20.3 million to add 5,000 seats to stadiums at both Canyon Lake High and Davenport High schools.

The rest of the bond issue — $34.5 million — would pay for teacher and student technology upgrades at all campuses.

Southside ISD

The Southside school district has proposed a $52 million bond package that would pay for projects at six campuses without a tax rate increase. About 5,600 students attend Southside ISD.

District spokesman Randy Escamilla said the district would aim to complete all projects within four years if voters approve the bond issue. A bond improvement committee made up of community members, parents, and school employees voted on the projects.

The $52 million would fund projects at Gallardo Elementary, Heritage Elementary, Freedom Elementary, Matthey Middle, Southside High, and Southside Early College High schools. All six campuses would see new furniture if the bond passes, and the three elementary schools would get new playgrounds.

Every campus except Gallardo Elementary School would receive roof replacements. The bond would pay for classroom renovations at Southside High, Southside Early College High, Freedom Elementary, and Heritage Elementary schools. A covered canopy also would be built between the high school campuses.

Additionally, the bond package would go toward purchasing emergency generators, repairing fences around schools, upgrading exterior lighting, and adding security cameras and front vestibules where visitors would have to check in before entering other areas of the campus. The $52 million would pay for heating and air-conditioning repairs, replacing chillers and boilers and drinking fountains. The high schools’ athletic facilities would get upgrades, including renovated locker rooms and new bleachers, scoreboards, goals, and backboards.

Alamo Heights ISD

The Alamo Heights school district is asking voters to approve a tax rate change that would lower the overall tax rate but bring in more revenue for the district of about 4,800 students.

If voters approve, Alamo Heights ISD would lower its current tax rate of $1.1964 per $100 property valuation to $1.1934. This change would generate an extra $1.4 million in property tax revenue that the district would use to help raise salaries and improve students’ overall education.

District spokeswoman Patti Pawlik-Perales said the new tax rate would reduce Alamo Heights ISD homeowners’ property tax rates to the lowest rate in 10 years.

“The average property tax increase would only result from any increase in the Bexar County property assessor’s assessment of their property value,” she said.

Although Alamo Heights ISD is proposing to decrease its tax rate, the change would generate new revenue for the district because it would not be subject to recapture by the state. Certain Texas school districts send some of their local revenue to the state under a law referred to as “Robin Hood” because these funds are redistributed by the state school finance system to help fund other districts. Alamo Heights has sent $622 million to the state under this legislation, Pawlik-Perales said.

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.