Tuesday night, community members and officials from Fort Bend Independent School District crowded into a windowless math classroom at Clements High School in Sugar Land. They were there to discuss a $1.26 billion bond the school board has on the ballot for the election this May, which would go toward updating each of the district's 81 campuses and, in some cases, total demolition and reconstruction.
Clements is one of the schools that would be totally rebuilt with the bond.
As attendees filtered in, fluorescent light bounced off the white walls onto the 30 or so desks in the room's center.
"I was a 2005 grad, and it looks the same as it did then," one parent remarked. "You can never tell what time it is in here unless you look at the clock."
George Tennison had English class in the same room before he graduated from Clements in 1989. "The desks are in the same place they were then." He said that while it was nostalgic to visit his alma mater, it was sad to see the extent of the maintenance needed on the aging campus.
"The students deserve better than this," he said. "I've already made my decision, and I'm going to vote for the bond."
The majority consensus among those in attendance was that the bond is necessary.
Currently, Clements's foundation is sinking, and its 40-year-old plumbing system is falling into disrepair. The rebuild of the campus would total $222.8 million. If the bond passes, the district also plans to rebuild Mission Bend Elementary School and Briargate Elementary School.
The bond would also go toward upgrading technology in the district's campuses, school safety and security, updating dilapidated plumbing and electrical systems and adding a new middle school and elementary school to the district.
District officials say the bond would result in a property tax increase of about $2.50 a month, or around $30 per year, for a family with a home valued at $300,000, the average home value in the district.
The tax increase would not apply to individuals age 65 and older in the county.
Judy Dae, vice president of the Fort Bend ISD school board, said she is concerned about voter turnout as well as voters who are uninformed about the bond. She said, while the property tax increase is slight, the language on the ballot indicating an increase in taxes may dissuade voters.
"I think, if the bond passes, it’s going to be very close, so I’m concerned," she said. "This is a May election, which usually has very low turnout. Also, the ballot language sometimes will hurt if people don’t have the knowledge.”
If the bond does not pass, the district said the projects may end up costing more in the long run, as inflation increases and maintenance costs add up.
In the event the bond is voted down in May, the district said it is prepared to put it on the ballot again this November.