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In upcoming spring election, Odessa voters will decide on $398 million school bond

The Ector County Independent School District is asking residents to approve a $398 million bond on May 7. If approved, the bond — which is split up into two propositions — would provide funds for repairs at campuses across the district, expand trade programs and build a new high school in northeast Odessa.

By Mitch Borden

In an upcoming spring election, voters in the Odessa area will decide whether to approve a bond worth up to approximately $398 million. Officials believe these funds are needed for Ector County Independent School District to expand programs offered to students, repair aging campuses and build a new high school.

However, local leaders say even if voters approve the proposed bond, the district will need millions more in funding in the coming years.

Marfa Public Radio’s Bárbara Anguiano spoke with Permian Basin reporter Mitch Borden about the upcoming bond election. Here is a synopsis of their conversation. 

The basics of the bond

Ector County ISD’s $398,255,000 bond is split up into two propositions, Prop A and Prop B. Voters will be able to choose between the two, approve both or reject the bond outright.

Proposition A would dedicate $215,255,000 to building a new career and technical facility for students, providing repairs to campuses across the district and updating technology in classrooms.

Proposition B would dedicate $183,000,000 to the construction of a new high school, which would be built in northeast Odessa. The community's student population is growing quickly and nearly all of its campuses will be overcrowded in the next decade if nothing is done, according to projections from the district. Local leaders and bond advocates believe building a new senior high campus is a step towards addressing this problem.

Millions of more dollars will be needed no matter the election results

A committee, formed by the district, assessed the state of schools and buildings throughout Ector County ISD and crafted the upcoming bond. Through polling, the committee determined voters in the Odessa area were not in favor of passing a bond over $400 million, which is how they came to the $398 million figure.

The committee also found that hundreds of millions more would be needed to address the growing needs of the district including a second new high school campus. Former Odessa Mayor Lorraine Perryman helped lead the bond committee and at a recent press conference laid out the potential cost of getting the district up to speed.

According to her, “We actually need a billion dollars to get the school district where it really needs to be.” She then said that even if voters approve the bond, “That is not to say we will not be coming back in five, ten however many years to continue to address these issues.”

Bonds & Permian Basin Voters

The Midland-Odessa area has a mixed relationship with school bonds. Since 2012, voters in the two cities have been faced with four school bonds. And the two most recent initiatives have failed at the polls, including a notorious 2019 bond election in Midland.

So, this upcoming election may be a good test of how receptive voters are to bond initiatives and the types of bonds voters are willing to approve. This is becoming a prescient question across Texas since school bonds throughout the state largely failed during the fall elections in 2021.

If approved, Ector County ISD’s bond would raise property taxes across the county. For property valued at $100,000, the owner would be taxed an additional $12 per month. There are some exceptions, specifically for anyone 65 years or older.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.