EL PASO, Texas - EPISD, the largest school district in the city, is proposing the largest bond in El Paso's history as other tax increases weigh on voter's minds.
The El Paso Independent School District's board of trustees approved a $668.7 million bond mid-August, which would lead to a 13.21 percent increase in taxes, or $259.44 more per year for the average $138,000 home in EPISD's tax base.
Other taxing entities, like University Medical Center and the City of El Paso, are also looking at or have already approved their own increases. The district and its trustees are taking that into consideration as they ramp up the campaign to get the bond passed.
"We have an obligation to make sure that when a voter goes to the polls in November, they go fully informed," said Susie Byrd, an EPISD trustee. "So we want to let them know what's on the ballot. We want to get in front of anybody that wants to talk to us, answer questions that they might have."
Byrd said the board is working to make itself more accessible to any community groups or organizations that would want to have them speak about the bond.
District staff and leaders are already looking to get an information campaign in high gear to tell voters what the bond will do for them and students. But the other entities tax increases are definitely something they are having to consider as they craft that message.
"The district is putting together a whole educational outreach for schools and community meetings to make sure when voters go to the polls in November, they really know what they're voting on," Byrd said.
Byrd said the district can't use public funds to campaign for the bond, but trustees can make individual pleas to get voters to support it.
"I think people really want to learn more about it," Byrd said. "But I think it's our obligation. If you put something forward on the ballot, you want to make sure that when people go to vote for it, they go to the ballot fully informed."
But there's a lot that is out of the district's control like other tax and utility increases affecting those living within the district. The EPISD bond would increase the tax rate from $1.235/$100 home value to $1.423/$100 resulting in that more than $200 increase for the average $138,000 home in the district boundaries, even after a $25,000 homestead exemption. But then, the city of El Paso's recently improved increase from $.7297/$100 home value to $.7597/$100 would also cost them $39.90 or 4.11 percent more.
The El Paso County Hospital District, also known as University Medical Center, is also pushing for an increase from $.221/$100 home value to $.234/$100, resulting in an average $17.94 increase, or 5.88 percent more. Then El Paso Community College also approved a new rate, increasing last year's $.133811/$100 home value to $.134909/$100. That results in an average $1.52 increase, or 0.82 percent more there.
Besides tax rates, El Paso Electric has also called for a rate increase estimated to range between $24 and $36 more for the average residential customer a year.
All in all, these other increases approach $100 more a year on top of EPISD's $200-plus proposal for that average home value household.
"My children are young and they're in school, so I want them to have the best opportunities available," said Hector Beltran, picking up from Mesita Elementary Tuesday afternoon. "And it is public education so I want the opportunity for them to have all those benefits. But I'm also a homeowner and so I understand the consequences of every couple of years, even if it's incremental, $20, $30, it adds up."
Many of the people ABC-7 spoke with Tuesday either have school-aged children or didn't think they would be affected by the bond, but most didn't know all the details either. The district's push to educate could be very important in determining the outcome.
The bond will be on the ballot during the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 8.