The SAISD board asks questions following a presentation during a meeting in January 2016. Photo by Scott Ball.
The SAISD board asks questions following a presentation during a meeting in January 2016. Photo by Scott Ball.

The 16-member Blue Ribbon Task Force appointed in May by the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) Board will recommend a new $450 million bond initiative and a 13-cent increase in the district’s Maintenance and Operation tax rate at a special school board meeting Monday.

Both the bond initiative and tax rate increase will require voter approval. District administrators, along with Task Force Co-Chairs Mario Barrera and Victoria Moreno-Herrera are expected to make a detailed presentation at the special meeting.

Trustees are expected to call for a public meeting on the tax increase, and then approve the recommendations at the Aug. 15 board meeting and place them on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot.

The proposed 13-cent increase in the Maintenance and Operations tax will increase the rate from $1.04 to $1.17 on each $1,000 of assessed property value, which district officials estimate will add $32 million to the annual operating budget.

The task force, which includes two appointed citizens from each of SAISD’s seven single-member districts, also will recommend that trustees appoint a Citizen Advisory Board “to oversee all school renovations/capital projects.” The task force’s final recommendation is that trustees undertake an extensive communications and outreach campaign in the district to educate voters and taxpayers on the importance of both the bond and the tax ratification.

The bond will cover major renovations at seven district high schools (G.W. Brackenridge, Burbank, Edison, Jefferson, Lanier, Sam Houston and Fox Tech); four middle schools (Davis, Irving, Tafolla, and Harry H. Rogers); and two elementary schools (J.T. Brackenridge and Bowden). The $450 bond total was reached by averaging 2015 estimated renovation costs with 2019 anticipated costs for completing the work at the 13 campuses.

The district undertook a $515 million bond initiative approved by voters in November 2010 that is virtually completed now which also addressed major renovation and technology upgrades at 22 district campuses, many of which are 50 years old and some more than 100 years old. Three projects are being completed this summer, and a major renovation and expansion of Highlands High School will be completed in the spring 2017.

Click here to review a complete list of schools improved with the 2010 bond.

The 2010 bond is being completed on time and on budget and with less of an impact on taxpayers than originally estimated. Controversy was stirred by the school board’s decision in 2010 to award a multi-million dollar management contract to a group led by Henry Muñoz III, CEO of Muñoz & Company. Muñoz is not a licensed architect himself, but has built the firm into a powerful, politically connected company that specializes in publicly-funded projects.

Other school districts in San Antonio typically employ managers on district administrative staff to oversee bond projects and capital investments. The proposed $450 million bond will be the first proposed under SAISD Board Chair Patti Radle and Superintendent Pedro Martinez, who likely will decide before the election how the district will manage the next bond if approved by voters.

The anticipated $32 million in new operating revenues that will come with the 13-cent tax rate increase, if approved by voters, will give Martinez badly-needed funds to boost his ambitious five-year plan for elevating academic outcomes in the district.

A school district’s tax rate is made up of two parts, the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) and Interest and Sinking (I&S). The M&O portion of the tax rate funds the daily operations of a school district. The I&S tax rate pays off debts, like bonds, and funds capital improvements like school renovations. SAISD’s M&O rate is among the lowest among school districts located in Bexar County.

District officials are expected to present figures Monday that will project the impact on taxes paid by individual homeowners if the bond and tax increase both pass. The special meeting of trustees is open to the public and will be held Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Burnet Center at 406 Barrera St.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force: Co-Chairs – Mario Barrera and Victoria Moreno-Herrera; District 1 – Brian Dillard, Shannan Hern; District 2 – Linda Jackson, Dan Martinez; District 3 – Pat Jasso, Denise Ojeda; District 4 – Maria Cruz, Michelle Elms; District 5 – Carlos Gonzalez, Richard Montez; District 6 –  Rachel Ponce, Steven Ibañez; District 7 –  Chris Alderete, Liliana Mireles-Moreno

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Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the SAISD board will approve the Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations at its Monday meeting. The board is expected to call Monday for a public hearing on the tax hike and then vote to approve the recommendations at the Aug. 15 board meeting.

Top image: The SAISD board asks questions following a presentation during a meeting in January 2016.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.