By Chris Edwards
AUSTIN – A Travis County district court ruled in favor of Woodville ISD regarding litigation over the May 7 bond election.
The judgement, which was issued last week in the 250th civil court presided over by Judge Karin Crump.
The suit, brought about by Woodville resident Charles Rawls claimed that voters within the WISD balloting area were given incorrect ballots for the special election. The outcome of the election was that the $47.8 million bond passed by a slim 51.2% majority. When canvassed at the regular May meeting of the WISD Board of Trustees, the tally was 621 voting “for” and 592 “against.”
In a statement following the decision, WISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg called the decision “a win for our kids.”
The judgement determined that the election is legal, valid and binding and authorizes the WISD Board of Trustees to proceed with the public offering, issuance and sale of bonds.
According to the summary, the court’s ruling also is a “permanent injunction against any person filing or prosecuting claims in any proceeding contesting the outcome of the May 7 election.”
“We are moving forward with our plans to build a new elementary pre-K-5th campus and renovate the Career and Technology Building at the high school,” said Meysembourg.
At a public hearing last week, WISD Business Manager Cody Jarrott reviewed the proposed tax rate, with the assistance of Christian Merritt of Live Oak Public Finance, which serves as the district’s financial adviser.
Although WISD adopted its 2022-23 budget in August, it did not adopt a tax rate, as the bond election was still in litigation.
By law, school districts have to adopt a tax rate by Sept. 30 so the district scheduled a special meeting for Sept. 28 with the hopes that a final judgment would be received by then.
Also by law, public notice of the hearing and meeting must be published at least 10 days in advance. As WISD was unsure of how or when the bond election litigation would be decided, the notice included a tax rate proposal for the maximum rate allowable, which for Woodville ISD would be $1.3146. The school board could always adopt a lower rate than what was published, but never more.
According to Meysembourg, upon receiving the news of the suit, the district’s legal counsel, bond counsel, bond underwriters and financial advisers went to work to structure bond sales in the best interest of the district and to ensure that the obligations promised to the taxpayers would be met.
WISD adopted tax rate for the 2022-23 school year is $1.0945 - an increase in I&S of $0.24, which is less than the anticipated $0.46.
The Interest and Sinking levy which can be used for debt payment only. However, the I&S tax rate for the next school year will be the full amount of $0.46, as was presented to the public during the bond presentations.