Bond 2021

Our Board of Trustees called for a Bond election to: 

  • Keep up with growth.
  • Take care of existing schools and impact every student.
  • Replace equipment and technology.
Bond Election 2021: Leander ISD

    Three propositions will be on the ballot for voters to consider. Proposition A includes $727.2 million worth of new construction, renovation, and equipment replacement projects. Proposition B includes $33.3 million to replace existing technology devices, including student and staff laptops, over the next three years. Proposition C includes $11.7 million in renovation and lighting/sound upgrades to our high school and district performing arts centers. 

    We worked with a community committee of over 150 volunteers to identify and prioritize our district’s needs over the next three years. The proposed projects impact every student and school in our district and can be financed without a tax rate increase and will be paid for by layering in debt payments using tax collections from rising property values. 

    Election Details

    • Last Day for Voter Registration: Monday, Oct. 4, 2021
    • Early Voting: Oct. 18–29, 2021
    • Election Day: Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021

    Ballot Information

    Propositions A, B, and C will be placed separately on the ballots, after state, city, and county election items. Voters can select “For” or “Against” on all three propositions.

    Voting Information

    Williamson County

    Travis County

    Voter registration ends Oct. 4, 2021.

    Growth in the next 10 years

    New Schools

    Additional Students

    New Homes

    Anticipated Enrollment Growth

    Leander ISD is working to keep up with the anticipated increase in student enrollment and minimize the need to rezone school attendance lines, which can be a disruption for families and neighborhoods. 

    The data from our demographer indicates that in the next 10 years, Leander ISD will grow by 12,400 additional students, with the construction of 20,600 new homes and nine more school buildings. This bond addresses projects to cover the next three years.

    • The bond proposal includes the construction of five traditional schools – four elementary schools and one middle school. It also expands Vista Ridge and New Hope high schools and adds classroom capacity for high school students by constructing a new School of Choice in the district.
    • LISD owns enough land to accommodate the new schools and will continue to use incoming student enrollment/housing data to determine future school locations.

    Clarification: The High School of Choice will serve 400-600 students in a standalone school, offered to students across the district. It will feature a career and technical education (CTE); science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); or other identified program of study. The Board of Trustees will select the program for the school based on the administrative recommendation, considering student interest, collaboration with the business community, and feasibility. 

    All Schools Impacted

    Every classroom is impacted through technology modifications and the replacement of technology devices.

    • Technology modifications to classrooms will bring existing classrooms up to the same standard as our three newly constructed schools.
    • Using a five- to seven-year replacement cycle, the bond will provide updated laptops and devices for all classrooms, students, teachers and staff. As an internet service provider for more than 45,000 students and staff members, the bond also includes projects to replace fiber, equipment, and broadband facilities to improve connectivity, speed, and reliability.

    This bond proposal focuses on projects for existing facilities and impacts every school.

    • Capital renewal and infrastructure replacements are included for 13 existing schools.
      • Capital Renewal of an existing facility involves the replacement of major building sub-systems including but not limited to roofing, elevators, air conditioning, lighting, electrical, plumbing, fire protection systems, built-in specialties and equipment, and interior finishes that are at the end of the expected service life.
    • New or renovated career and technical education (CTE) and fine arts classroom spaces are included for Cedar Park, Leander and Vista Ridge high schools. 

    This bond package will provide updated equipment and technology.

    • Equipment renovations of all 28 elementary school playgrounds, including new or replacement shade structures, are also provided. 
    • All high school band equipment purchased at least 10 years ago will be replaced.
    • New light and sound equipment for all middle school cafetoriums, all high school auditoriums, and both district Performing Arts Centers (PAC) is included. 
    • New furniture for 17 schools will be purchased.

    Presentation

    Presentation Details

    We are working to present details about our Nov. 2 Bond Election at staff meetings, PTA/PTO meetings, Booster Club meetings, and local civic organization meetings.

    What is in the Bond?

    What is a bond?

    A bond is a debt instrument in which an investor loans money to the district. The proceeds from the bond are used to finance capital projects and other long-term items. The district repays the principle of the bonds, along with interest, over a period of time. School districts can only sell bonds if authorization is received by voters.

    Bond dollars are not part of the district’s operating budget. They cannot be spent on any initiative, program, or ongoing operational expense, such as teacher salaries.

    Additionally, bond dollars are not subject to recapture. Recapture, or “Chapter 41” is a state law where LISD receives less money in state aid for every additional dollar in local tax collections. Bond dollars are $1 for $1 investment in our district; the state doesn’t remove aid based on collections for debt service.

    See more Bond FAQs below.

    Resources

    Bond News

    Happy fall, y’all! To our #1LISD families & staff, do you know just how UN-BE-LEAF-ABLE you really are?! This crazy carnival ride is resting in shorter days, cooler weather, and time to reflect. As a continuous improvement district, we search for ways to be more efficient, transparent, and accessible. In the spirit of “gathering together”, […]... Read more
    November 10, 2021
    Voters approved proposition B funding $33.3 million to replace technology devices but voted against propositions A and C to fund new construction, renovations, and technology infrastructure projects, according to unofficial Nov. 2 election results.  “Growth continues across Leander ISD,” Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D. said. “We have to re-engage our community to determine our next steps […]... Read more
    November 3, 2021
    Good afternoon Leander ISD families,  In this issue of the latest Compass newsletter, you will find the following information: Superintendent Message  Bond Election Celebrating our Staff Free COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic on Nov. 1 LEEF Gala & 2021 Fall Innovative Grants Awarded  Volunteering Board Briefs Superintendent Message Thank you to our world-class Leander ISD staff for […]... Read more
    October 27, 2021

    Citizens/ Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC)

    The Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC) created the district’s long-range facility plan covering the next three years. The 150-member committee is divided into five subcommittees to evaluate projects for elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as technology and ancillary (or support) services.

    By live streaming, publishing meeting summaries, and publishing all meeting documents and resources, we have maintained the most transparent, community bond process in our district’s history.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    How will Bond 2021 impact my Leander ISD property tax rate?

    If approved, these Bond propositions will not increase the tax rate but rather will be paid for by revenue generated by anticipated increases in housing values and the resulting property tax payments.

    How is it possible that Bond 2021 would not result in a tax rate increase?

    Your school tax rate is made up of two parts. There are two types of taxes that make up your school tax bill. The first, M&O tax rate (Maintenance & Operations), covers operating expenses such as salaries and utility bills. The second, I&S tax rate (Interest & Sinking), raises revenue to pay debt service on capital projects (new construction, school buses and other equipment) or capital renewal (renovations to existing buildings).

    Your tax rate is different from your tax bill. A tax rate determines how much a homeowner pays per $100 assessed valuation on their home. Because of how LISD has financially structured the bond, the projects in the 2021 package will not require an increase in tax rates. The total of your tax bill will be determined by applying the current tax rate to your projected property value.

    The school district does not set property values. The bond package costs will be paid down over time at our existing tax rate using a conservative enrollment growth estimate and projected increases in property values. Funding for this bond program will not require an increase to the District’s current I&S tax rate.

    What projects are included in Bond 2021?

    Key Projects of Bond 2021 include:

    • five new schools (four elementary and one middle);
    • renovations and major maintenance at 12 schools;
    • additional and renovated classrooms at Cedar Park, Leander, and Vista Ridge high schools;
    • replacements of existing lighting and sound equipment, as well as instruments for high school fine arts programs;
    • new playground equipment and shade structures (as needed) at all elementary schools; 
    • new 18+ plus program building for students in special education qualifying for services after their 18th birthday; 
    • new building for New Hope High School, a school of choice program that allows students to self pace earning high school credits; 
    • an additional school of choice for high school students; 
    • technology infrastructure projects to address quality and reliability of internet services; and
    • new laptops and technology devices to replace existing equipment used by students and teachers.

    For a complete list of items included in Bond 2021, please see the Projects section above.

    What are bonds? How long does it take to pay them off?

    School districts can only sell bonds if authorization is received by voters through an election. A bond is a debt instrument in which an investor loans money to the district. The proceeds from the bond are used to finance capital projects and other long-term items. The district repays the principal of the bonds, along with interest, over a period of time. Under current Texas laws, the maximum maturity of a bond is 40 years. Assets financed by the bonds that have a shorter asset life are sold with shorter maturities that align with their useful life.

    How do bonds work?

    The sale of bonds begins with an election to authorize a specific amount – the maximum amount of bonds the district is allowed to sell. The school district sells the municipal bonds as funds are needed for capital projects. On the day of the sale, interested investors submit orders for the bonds which have been priced according to market demands. Most bonds are purchased by large institutional investors or pension funds. Some may be purchased by retail institutions that sell them to individuals in the secondary market. Bonds are sold in multiple maturities meaning they mature at different times over a period of years. The interest rate is typically different depending on the maturity date. Longer maturities typically carry a higher interest rate. The interest rate is determined based on market conditions and the quality of the credit. In other words, the better the credit rating, the lower the interest rate on the bond and the lower the cost of borrowing.

    How can bond money be used?

    In accordance with the Texas Education Code, bond proceeds can be used for the construction, acquisition, and renovation of school buildings, the acquisition of land, and the purchase of capital equipment such as technology and school buses.

    Why are bonds used to finance non-facility items?

    The school finance formulas no longer provide the necessary funds that would allow the purchase of non-facility capital items  through the General Operating Fund and still meet the ongoing day-to-day expenditures of educating students and running a large organization. In addition, it is advantageous to the district to pay for capital items – such as technology, buses, land and portable buildings – with bond money rather than from the General Fund as the cost can be spread over the life of the asset rather than a single purchase diluting the General Operating Fund.

    Once a Bond Election is passed, does the school district immediately incur the debt?

    Debt is not incurred until the Bonds are actually sold. Historically, the district has issued bonds over several sales from a particular Bond referendum. The Bonds are sold to align with the need for cash to fund the construction of schools and purchase equipment.

    Once Bonds are approved, is the District obligated to spend the money?

    No. Voter approval is an authorization for the district to issue bonds. The bonds are sold in the future only when funds are needed.

    What makes up a district tax rate?

    A school district’s tax rate consists of two parts:

    1. Maintenance and Operations (M&O)
    2. Debt Service (I&S)

    Maintenance and operations taxes fund the General Operating Fund, which pays for regular operating expenditures of the district, such as salaries, supplies, utilities, insurance, equipment and other costs. The Debt Service tax pays for school bonds and can be used only to retire the principal, interest and expenditures of bonds sold for specific purposes. The Board of Trustees adopts the tax rate each year, typically in August.

    How do bond elections affect homeowners who are over 65?

    Upon reaching the age of 65, citizens can apply for an exemption in addtion to the statewide homestead exemption. The additional exemption of $10,000 from the state plus $3,000 from LISD is applied to the assessed value of the property, and school district taxes are frozen in the year the taxpayer turns 65 years of age. For any taxpayer whose bill is already frozen, you will not see an increase as a result of a school bond election.

    What is the district’s reputation for fiscal responsibility?

    LISD earned an A rating on the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST). Because Leander ISD has been paying off past debt ahead of schedule, the district’s projections show enough capacity in the I&S budget to pay debt service on the Bond without raising the I&S tax rate.

    LISD will use a borrow-as-we-go financial model. The district will not borrow the total amount of the Bond on Day 1. Instead, the district will phase in bond sales as money is needed for construction. The Bond serves as an adjusted credit limit. It does not mean the district will be borrowing all of the money right away. Rather, the district will borrow as projects get underway.

    Technology items with a shorter lifespan will be paid off early. The district recognizes that there are technology needs that involve more short-term assets. As a result, the district will pay these off sooner and will not borrow for 20-30 years for a laptop that only lasts five to seven years.

    By refinancing outstanding debt, structuring new debt and taking advantage of early repayment options, the district has:

    • Reduced overall Capital Appreciation Bond (CAB) percentage from 75% to 36%
    • Reduced total future principal & interest by $733 million while issuing $286 million in new bonds
    • Has a current additional capacity of $1 billion
    • Reduced repayment terms of all debt by 5 years

    If the bond propositions are approved, when will the projects start?

    If the bond propositions are approved, some projects will start this school year with all projects on the list expected to begin by the spring semester of 2024.

    What happens if the bond propositions are not approved?

    If the bond propositions are not approved or specific propositions do not pass, LISD will consider alternative options for managing anticipated growth, including the possibility of utilizing portable buildings, implementing attendance rezoning, making operational budget cuts or reallocation, utilizing fund balance typically reserved for emergencies, and/or proposing future bond elections. We may also need to reconsider replacement cycles for equipment and technology devices.

    How does the instrument replacement impact middle schools?

    Once high school band programs receive their allocation, we can then address middle school needs, as necessary. Some instruments are shared between high school and middle campuses, so the replacement at the high school impacts all band programs.

    Who is eligible to vote?

    You are eligible to register to vote if:

    • You are a United States Citizen;
    • You are a resident of the county where you submit the application;
    • You are at least 17 years and 10 months of age;
    • You are not a convicted felon (unless you have completed your sentence including any incarceration, probation, or parole); and
    • You have not been declared by a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be either totally mentally incapacitated or partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote.

    When was the last bond election?

    Leander ISD passed a bond election in 2017. Prior to that, the district passed a bond in 2007.

    By what margin was the last bond election passed?

    The 2017 voters approved the election item with 65.9% for the bond. Election results can be found under Debt Management on our Financial Transparency webpage.

    Are interactive panels the same thing as SMART boards? And are there plans for districtwide panel installation?

    No. SMARTboard is a specific instructional technlogy brand. In Leander ISD, we have used a SMARTboard in some classrooms that is not an interactive panel. If voters approve the propositions, we would conduct a purchasing process that may include a SMARTboard brand interactive panel. Currently, we do not use SMARTboard brand interactive panels in our classsrooms with the technology.

    Will there be training for new interactive panels in the schools?

    Yes, there will be training for interactive panels. The Request For Proposal (RFP) process will require potential vendors to provide a comprehensive training program for users and teachers as part of the overall project.

    Will there be an interactive notebook that contains pre-made presentations for use throughout all subjects, at the ready for staff to save and use for future lessons?

    Some vendors for interactive panels have lessons available as part of their software package, which will be determined by a RFP process. However, all interactive panels interface with Google Workspace, which includes Google Classroom, Sheets, Slides, etc. The curriculum team is working on having the LISD curriculum available through Google Classroom to include activities, ready-made presentations, etc.

    Are there plans for 1:1 iPads at the elementary school level?

    No, there are no plans to adopt a 1:1 iPad template for elementary schools.

    Do we have the fund capabilities for this bond election?

    Yes. The district has capacity to issue the $772 million over three years without a need to increase the tax rate. This is possible because we pay off debt early, we issue the bonds over time as needed for cash flow, and rises in appraisal value generate additional funding.

    What is the district’s rating for bonds?

    The district’s bond rating was recently upgraded to AA by Fitch. Both S&P and Fitch rate the district as AA.

    What does Leander ISD's “get out the vote” push look like as the election approaches?

    We have scheduled more than 120 presentations for staff, community members, and parents. We published a robust website, advertised in local newspapers, produced a video, presentation, and printed flyers. All materials are available in English and Spanish. Additional details can be found on this Bond page.

    How are campus and facility renovations determined?

    If funding is available, campus and facility renovations typically take place when the building is 20 years old. However, each year when the Capital Renewal Plan is put together, facilities are also evaluated based on the condition of HVAC systems.

    In the 2017 bond, not all facilities that had reached the 20-year mark were included due to the 2017 bond citizens facility advisory committee needing to keep the bond amount around $450 million. As a result, there are a number of facilities that had to be stretched beyond the 20-year mark.

    Capital Renewal in Bond 2017

    • Giddens ES
    • Steiner Ranch ES
    • Cedar Park MS
    • Leander MS

    Capital Renewal in Bond 2021

    • Bagdad ES
    • Cox ES
    • Deer Creek ES
    • Knowles ES
    • Laura Welch Bush ES
    • Naumann ES
    • Pleasant Hill ES
    • Canyon Ridge MS
    • Henry MS
    • Running Brushy MS
    • Cedar Park HS
    • Leander HS
    • Vista Ridge HS
    • Don Tew PAC
    • South PAC

    Projected for Capital Renewal in future bond

    • Grandview Hills ES
    • Parkside ES
    • Plain ES
    • River Place ES
    • Rutledge ES
    • Westside ES
    • Winkley ES
    • Wiley MS
    • Rouse HS
    • LEO Center
    • Administration Building
    • Support Services Building
    • Technology Services Building
    • Transportation Building

    When will the locations of the new elementary schools be determined and how will they impact the surrounding elementary schools?

    The annual Demographic Update provides the district where and when the schools might be needed, as well, as how it would impact the schools around it. But this is only a planning tool. The Board makes the final decision on when and where schools are located.

    When will more details on the "School of Choice High School" be released?

    If voters approve proposition A, the administration will work with our Board of Trustees to create a process for evaluating, selecting, and implementing a program for the high school of choice.

    What is the expected bond maturity for each proposal?

    We won't know exact information unless the bonds pass and we start doing bond sales. However, we have a proforma created by our financial advisor/consultant that shows a model for maturity layered with existing debt.

    What is the expected increase in the property tax rate for each of the proposals?

    We actually ran our model with a drop in the tax rate of $0.0025. If we maintain current values, we will not need to raise the rate. You can see how this will work in the proforma.

    If the property tax rate will not increase and will be funded "by revenue generated by anticipated increases in housing values and the resulting property tax payments," what is the meaning of "This is a property tax increase" as written in each proposal?

    That ballot language is a legal requirement based on state law. To be transparent, as stated on the website, if values go up and our I&S rate stays stable, your tax bill will increase.

    If "by revenue generated by anticipated increases in housing values and the resulting property tax payments" does not sufficiently fund the bond, when can we expect adjustments to tax rates (if at all)?

    The Board adopts a tax rate each August by law.

    Where can I find the proposed start dates for all of the projects?

    We don't have project start dates because they are contingent upon a multitude of factors and planning that is too costly to do without approved funding. We do have schedules and models. We will start projects in the Spring of 2022 and start the last round of projects by Spring 2024, assuming growth projections hold steady.

    What projects will be started immediately?

    The first projects to expect include Elementary #30 as our demographer states this is needed by August 2023. You can also expect the capital renewal projects to start for the oldest schools first. Technology infrastructure will also start as soon as possible.

    For the projects that are not starting immediately (in particular, those expected to start in 2024), what is preventing them from being started? How are priorities defined for each project?

    Regarding prioritization - with all of the projects starting in a 3-year timeline, most of the projects are sequenced based on the availability of construction managers, supply chains, etc. We use our annual demographer report to determine school construction and location, and we wait for the most current report before making decisions on locations (the next report is in November 2021).

    If projects have serial dependencies, where can I find these dependencies?

    The table above lists projects and descriptions. A companion document provides additional project details.

    When can I expect all projects to have their estimated start dates?

    If approved, and after the November demographer presentation, we would publish a document with project timelines. This is a living document and is subject to change as conditions change. Here's a project timeline sample from Bond 2017 that's on our website and presented monthly to our Board of Trustees.

    Where can I find relevant documentation on each project? Are there public postings of the RFPs, SOWs, etc?

    All information regarding RFPs and project items are on the district's purchasing webpage when the projects are open for bids.

    How does the school district contact families whose residences are part of LISD but do not have any children or children of age to vote on these issues? Essentially, what did I miss and what should my neighbors expect to see so that they are informed.

    We have done advertising in local newspapers across the district, including the Community Impact newspaper, which mails copies to every home. We also make our information readily available on our social media and website. We continue to work with local media outlets to report on the information as well.

    How does this bond affect the 2017 bond that passed as far as the construction of high school 7? Is that not going to happen now, be delayed, or will it still open at the scheduled time?

    The 2017 Bond included $10 million to design High School #7. That money is still available and has not been spent or borrowed. The committee opted to tackle capacity issues for high school by expanding Vista Ridge, building and expanding New Hope High School, and adding a 400- to 600-student School of Choice. This would allow the district to delay the construction of High School #7 and its inclusion in a bond package.

    The money from 2017 was for architecture and design fees only. The additional cost for construction and opening a traditional high school would be $230 - $250 million. With the other projects being considered, the high school subcommittee opted to prioritize the other projects. Based on our demographic projections, we will still need a High School #7 in the future, but it will probably not be needed until after 2025.

    Could you tell me the schools that will be experiencing more than 20 percent growth?

    Schools at or exceeding 120% capacity: Akin, Bagdad, Block House Creek, Camacho, Larkspur, Mason, Parkside, Plain, Pleasant Hill, River Place, Rutledge, Danielson MS, Running Brushy MS, Stiles MS, Glenn HS.

    What is the district's current debt burden? When is the last of that debt projected to be paid in full?

    Current debt obligations are $1.1 billion. Existing debt paid out through 6/2051 as currently scheduled. That doesn't include repayments or future issuances.

    How does the district determine construction costs?

    When it comes to cost estimation for renovations and new construction, we base costs off of the size and scope of the project. We are actively building, so we have first-hand knowledge of current labor and materials costs. We also allow for contingency and adjust project costs to account for the possibility of inflation in future years.

    Contigency depends on the project. Inflation is a set percentage of the total project costs, estimated as: 2021 - 6%, 2022 - 12%, 2023 - 8%, and 2024 - 4%.