Voters Pass NISD $849M Bond Package; Runoff Ahead in Alamo Colleges Trustee Contest

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The Northside Independent School District board calls for the longest bond in the history of the district.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The Northside Independent School District board calls for the longest bond in the history of the district in January 2018.

Supporters of the biggest bond issue in Northside Independent School District history gathered Saturday night to celebrate an overwhelming win for the nearly $849 million package.

Meanwhile, in the Alamo Colleges District, one incumbent trustee and a challenger were headed for a runoff in a contest Saturday that drew less than five percent of eligible Bexar County voters.

The Northside ISD bond will allocate $280.3 million to build four new campuses, including a new high school, on the far Westside, as well as $329.4 million on renovations and rebuilds at existing schools. The rest of the bond will cover upgrades in technology, roofing, security, infrastructure and transportation.

District officials and bond backers said the money is needed to address continuing growth in San Antonio’s largest school district, which is also one of the largest districts in Texas.

Former NISD Superintendent John Folks was one of three people chairing the bond committee, which hosted an election watch party at the committee headquarters at Wurzbach Road and Interstate 10.

More than 60 people cheered as the results rolled in. The single-proposition bond had already received 60 percent of the vote in the early voting period.

Folks said voters who approved the package understand Northside’s need to maintain equity between newer and older facilities to adequately support growing student enrollment.

“One of the great things about this bond is that 67 percent of the money in this bond issue is going to renovate, repair, and do things to upgrade our older schools,” Folks said. “It’s one of the reasons we see a positive vote.”

Assuming appraisal values don’t increase, NISD property owners would see no bond-related tax hike until 2019, when they would see a slight uptick of 3 cents per month on 2018 taxes.

School Board President M’Lissa Chumbley thanked her fellow trustees, district staff, and teachers for all they did to help inform NISD residents about the bond election. The district had more than 200 informational meetings since the board called the election in January.

Chumbley also thanked voters, to whom she expressed confidence Saturday that the district will properly oversee bond-funded projects. The district has successfully floated bond issues eight times since 1992.

“I absolutely agree that our community trusts our staff,” Chumbley said. “They know we have the best teachers in our classrooms. They know we have people in place that care about our children, and care about what we do, how we treat them and how we treat each other.”

Current NISD Superintendent Brian Woods agreed: “That is the kind of thing we are seeing in these election results.”

The Alamo Colleges board has addressed various issues and challenges in recent years, including the controversial districtwide standardization of counseling and curriculum by outgoing Chancellor Bruce Leslie, accreditation warnings, and an effort to repair relations between administrators and employees.

James Hernandez, a case manager at Roy Maas Youth Alternatives, outpolled District 5 board member Roberto Zárate, a retired elementary school principal. Hernandez had 44 percent of the vote; Zárate had 35 percent.

Ramiro Nava, an administrator with the Somerset Independent School District, finished third with 20 percent.

Because neither Hernandez nor Zárate received more than 50 percent, they will compete in a runoff. A runoff election date has not yet been determined.

“I feel good, I feel confident,” Hernandez said, adding that he ran a grassroots campaign, reflective of community desires.

“We got a lot of volunteers and members of the community working with us,” he added. “A lot of the legwork was just sitting down and talking with people.”

Zárate said Saturday’s results were “democracy in action. That’s what makes America great.”

Zárate lamented the total voter turnout across Bexar County, which was 4.75 percent.

“People need to vote,” he said. “It was a very low turnout day. People need to understand the privilege they have.”

Zárate campaigned on keeping up the board’s momentum with overseeing facilitation of a voter-approved $450 million bond, and preparing for the district’s incoming chancellor, Mike Flores, who takes office Oct. 1.

Joe Jesse Sanchez, the District 9 incumbent, secured 50.8 percent to fill the two years left on late trustee Jim Rindfuss’ term.

Sanchez, who recently finished a 45-year-plus education career, beat Felix Grieder, a USAA process engineer.

Sanchez said he worked hard to make himself available to all parts of the district since his appointment to the board last fall.

“It was about the message that we’re here for the students,” he said of his campaign.

Voters awarded Gene Sprague, a professor at UT Health San Antonio, with his fifth term on the board. He said he wanted to maintain continuity for the board during the transition in the chancellor’s office.

Sprague received 54 percent of the vote over Jacob Wong, a human resources staffer with the district.

“I want to keep up the momentum,” Sprague said. “We’ve nearly tripled our graduation rate. We have a new chancellor coming in. It’s a critical time to keep our success going.”

Board Chairwoman Yvonne Katz, a former Harlandale ISD superintendent, won a second term with 64 percent against David Fischer, a retired university professor.

Katz campaigned for continued dual credit expansion, and for more programs that help segments of the district student population.

 

Correction: This article has been updated to accurately reflect that there will be one runoff in the Alamo Colleges District trustee contest.

One thought on “Voters Pass NISD $849M Bond Package; Runoff Ahead in Alamo Colleges Trustee Contest

  1. The Northside ISD is just griming with greed. But most of the voters sat on their hands and let a small minority vote. The next person in the NISD to complain about their property taxes, my first question to them is whether or not they voted. If they didn’t then they voted to raise their own taxes. San Antonio is near the top of the heap for property tax rates in the US. San Antonio’s property tax rate is higher than any country in Europe.

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