Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Asks for Record-Breaking $1.76 Billion Bond
On May 4, 2019, Texas’ third largest school district will ask voters to approve the largest school bond debt package in state history.
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, located northwest of Houston, reports a student enrollment of 116,249 for 2018-19. The district has grown significantly over the past few decades, although growth has slowed recently, with an increase of about 3,000 since the district’s last bond election in 2014. CFISD officials predict the district will grow by another 3,000 to 4,000 students by 2025.
Earlier this year, the CFISD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to hold a new bond election requesting a record-setting $1.76 billion in new debt. If approved, CFISD ballot language states that the funds will be used for a variety of construction and renovation projects, purchases of land and buses, as well as improvements to security infrastructure. The CFISD website indicates that the bond package will only fund two new schools, but also a new performance center and an instructional support center.
Despite the unprecedented amount of tax-payer debt requested, there does not seem to be any organized opposition to the nearly $1.8 billion proposal. The district seems to be promoting the bond with its taxpayer-funded website, and as with the 2014 bond election, a number of contractors, businesses, and individuals have funded a political action committee entitled “Say Yes for CFISD Kids” in order to pay for campaign materials promoting passage. Many of the 2014 contributors are again listed on the PAC’s 2019 website, and some of those 2014 supporters were awarded ISD contracts related to the previous bond. ICI Construction Inc. listed as a 2014 “Say Yes for CFISD Kids” PAC contributor, was awarded $16.87 million in contracts by the district just last September.
The 2014 CFISD bond set records at the time, successfully obtaining approval for $1.2 billion in new debt. As of February 2019, the district had yet to issue $158.8 million from that package, but chief financial officer Stuart Snow indicated the district would sell the remaining amounts in the fall of 2019.
CFISD’s 2014 bond was infamous for more than breaking the billion dollar mark; the board of trustees authorized the use of controversial “rolling polling,” which significantly suppressed voter turnout and provoked state scrutiny. During early voting, the district moved voting locations daily, creating an inconvenient and chaotic scenario for citizen participation. Consequently only 7,266 of more than 200,000 registered voters participated in that election (with only 5,909 voting to approve.)
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