DSISD bond overcomes legal challenge

A Travis County judge last week ruled approval of Dripping Springs ISD’s $132 million bond was legitimate, giving way for a plethora of new infrastructure improvements to begin in the near future.

The ruling ends an organization’s litigation attempt to force a new bond election, claiming voters were disenfranchised.

The lawsuit was led by the Citizens for Excellent Education in Dripping Springs (CEEDS), an education activist organization that questioned the legitimacy of the May 5 election. Initial results showed the bond passed by a slim 31 vote margin May 5. A recount was called for by CEEDS, with results showing the bond passing with 37 votes.

CEEDS filed the lawsuit on July 18, citing that 51 qualified voters residing in Travis County were not notified of the election, and elected officials made no provision for them to vote.

Despite the initial recount and lawsuit, the $132 million bond package will stand. The ruling also applies to both the elected contest lawsuit and the district’s request for declaratory judgment.

“We are pleased that today’s ruling means our school community will be able to move forward with a $132 million bond program that will benefit every student in our district and do so without raising the property tax rate,” said Bruce Gearing, Superintendent for the DSISD.  “More than 100 community members and parents generously gave of their time and expertise to help the district identify the more than 40 projects that went before voters in May, and we are grateful for all who participated in the process.”

In a Facebook post after the lawsuit, CEEDS said despite the presentation of “underlying evidence,” the judge sided in favor of DSISD’s “high-priced lawyers’ creative interpretation of the law.”

For future elections, CEEDS said it will bring critical reforms to elect common-sense leaders to the school board who can be trusted to ensure tax dollars, including this bond, do not go to waste.

“And be assured, many actionable discoveries have already been made over the course of the election contest and this information will help us in our fight to bring good governance to our school board,” according to a CEEDS statement. “One thing is abundantly clear: both DSISD and Hays County Elections believe their many mistakes were insignificant.”

Jerad Najvar, attorney for CEEDS, said while he respected the court’s decision, he believed it reflected an “erroneous interpretation of the relevant code provisions.”

“Due to DSISD seeking a security bond of at least $1 million should litigation continue, an appeal is not a viable option given that oppressive bond requirement,” Najvar said. “However, DSISD and Hays County Elections should now understand that their sloppiness in conducting elections will not go unchallenged, and there is much that CEEDS and concerned citizens can do now to hold DSISD and Hays County Elections accountable, as well as ensure that future elections are conducted with a proper respect for the process.”

What comes next

With the lawsuit ruling in favor of the DSISD, the focus will now be shifted to the many infrastructures, classroom improvements and the addition of new campuses the district fought for as part of the bond package.

“We now will quickly begin plans and designs to update and build new educational facilities that will accommodate rapid growth and elevate the educational experience for our DSISD learners,” Gearing said.  “We welcome community stakeholder input in the process, and plan to re-engage the Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee to provide feedback on current and future plans to improve district facilities.”

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