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Bell County GOP opposes Belton ISD's bond proposal

The Bell County Republican Executive Committee passed a resolution opposing Belton ISD's bond in March. They're still standing by it 2 weeks before the election.

BELTON, Texas — The Bell County Republican Party Executive Committee passed a resolution opposing two proposed Belton ISD bonds on March 23. Two weeks before the May 7 special election, they are standing by that resolution. 

Belton ISD's Proposition A asks for a bond of $168,825,000 for a host of improvements including the construction of 2 new elementary schools, an addition at Southwest Elementary School, additional buses, increased security and maintenance including "mechanical, electrical, plumbing and roofing." A full list can be found here.  

Belton ISD's Proposition B asks for a $5,000,000 bond for "technology devices and equipment for students, teachers and staff."

The Bell County republican resolution "urges a vote against both propositions."

State Republican Executive Committeeman Andrew Eller told 6 News the first major reason for opposition was how the district included maintenance costs in the bond. He said that should be coming from their current/existing Maintenance and Operating tax fund rather than bonds.

"They really don't belong in bonds. They belong in maintenance and operating expense. When you let buildings run down, you don't take care of your schools, that's what's going to happen. They look to the tax payers to make up for maintenance," Eller said. 

Eller also took issue with the school district building two new elementary schools with plans to eventually close an existing school. 

"You are building a larger school for 800 students to replace a 400 student school," Eller said. "Build schools in the area you need them, don't necessarily replace an older school."

Eller said he believed removing the maintenance costs and some other items could potentially reduce the bond by half, which would make it more attractive. 

The last issue troubling the local GOP was Belton ISD's property tax rate for local home owners. Belton ISD has been quick to point out that tax rate is not changing, but Eller said everyone will pay more by default because property values are increasing so quickly.

"Property values are skyrocketing and taxes are paid based on rate times property value," Eller said. "The tax payers are going to be paying a lot more out of their pocket in the coming years to pay for these bonds."

Eller said he would rather see Belton ISD ask for a smaller bond and try to reduce their property tax rate to reduce the burden on tax payers. 

Belton ISD has already said the funds are needed to keep up with local population growth and bring older campuses to newer standards. Some campuses are now depending on portable buildings. 

Belton ISD provided 6 News the following statement regarding property taxes:

We know and respect the challenges that taxpayers are feeling in Belton ISD. Over the past five years the BISD Board of Trustees has worked to lower tax rates for our community. If approved by voters, Proposition A and Proposition B will not increase the tax rate. As we study preliminary values provided by our appraisal district, BISD will continue to explore the best options to address the 3,100 additional students we expect over the next five years, while also respecting the challenges taxpayers around the state are facing.

Another statement to 6 News said the district believes that these improvements are not routine maintenance but significant improvements: 

During our Bond Exploration Committee meetings, community members looked at 11 data points before identifying and prioritizing a list of proposed projects. The summary of this data showed that more than half of Belton ISD campuses are in need of attention. Proposition A addresses the replacement of major mechanical systems and roofs, remodeling of interior spaces at older facilities, expanding capacity at Southwest Elementary, all of which are allowed by law. Routine facility maintenance is not addressed in this bond.

Early Voting for the upcoming special election runs from April 25 to May 3. Election day is May 7. 

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