By Mitch Borden
The Midland Independent School District is gearing up for a battle. It has about two months to convince voters to something they’ve never done before: approve a $569 million bond — that’s three times the size of the largest bond the school district’s ever passed.
The multimillion bond the district is bringing to Midland voters in November would build two new high schools and refurbish multiple campuses across the district. Officials said this will help with overcrowding and any growth the district sees in the near future. Right now, to deal with overcrowding Midland ISD is relying on 130 leased portable classrooms.
Population projections show the Permian District’s student body will sharply increase by around 7,000 students in the next nine years. Midland ISD Superintendent Orland Riddick said the real question the district’s bond is posing is when will Midland decide to build for population growth?
“Our community has to decide will it kick the can or will it stop and address it right now.”
Riddick believes a lot of the problems the proposed bond would address, could’ve been taken care of in the past, but he said Midlanders chose to ignore them. He hopes this bond election will be different from years past and voters will approve creating new campuses and updating older schools to better serve today’s students.
“You really have to contemplate now that we are 19 years into the 21st century, do our kids need 21st-century learning that incorporates itself with facilities and do we have people who understand and want to be in that environment.”
If approved the bond would raise property taxes, but not by much. Current estimates by the district show the property tax on a home worth $300,000 would go up by roughly $5.30 a month, or a little over $60 a year. According to Riddick, the property tax increase would only be for 20 years.
Across Midland, property values are increasing. The city will raise the amount of money collected from property owners and the county is currently weighing a similar decision.
However, Riddick isn’t worried this will hurt the chances the district’s bond proposal will pass. He explained, Midland ISD has done its “homework” on this proposal. Last year, the district formed a committee made up of district and community leaders to research and craft the bond proposal. The undertaking took 18 months.
The district — along with a recently formed political action committee, dubbed We Choose Our Future — are working to get their message to voters. If the bond is rejected, Riddick said the school will find ways to adapt. But that will most likely mean more portable classrooms and school conditions would likely deteriorate faster, as student population swells.
Midland ISD also estimates that if the $569 million bond fails, any attempts in the future to fund the same amount of construction and updates would be more expensive. For instance, district officials said if the same bond is proposed five years from now, it would have to be $22 million more than the $569 million being proposed now.