FORT WORTH, Texas — Just 300 absentee and provisional ballots from Tarrant County voters will determine the fate of a $1.2 billion bond proposal to renovate Fort Worth schools. The votes will be reviewed and counted early next week, county officials said.
The proposition, which would provide for major renovations of all district middle schools and the construction of four elementary campuses, ended Election Day with 50.09% of the vote in its favor — 12,342 votes for the bond and 12,300 against.
Because of this slim margin, absentee and provisional ballots could affect the approval of the proposition. Absentee ballots postmarked by Tuesday and received by the county by Wednesday will be reviewed by the county Early Voting Ballot Board. The board, made up of county Republican and Democratic party members, will review the ballots and determine if they’re eligible to be counted.
Ballots mailed from U.S. citizens residing outside the country may be counted if clearly postmarked on or before Tuesday and received by the elections administrator no later than the fifth day after Election Day.
Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia said the county received 171 ballots on Wednesday. These ballots are countywide, not exclusive to Fort Worth school district voters.
There were also 164 provisional ballots cast on Election Day. Provisional ballots are used to record a vote when there are questions about a voter’s eligibility that must be resolved before the vote can count.
The Tarrant County Elections Office is reviewing these provisional ballots and will provide a recommendation to the ballot board, which will determine which ballots are eligible. Then all the eligible ballots will be opened and counted.
This process could be complete as early as Tuesday or Wednesday. Once the votes are counted, the Tarrant County Elections Office will update the vote count on its website and provide the vote count to each entity to canvass the results.
District officials said they are waiting until the county certifies the election to comment on the next steps for the bond.
Voters rejected three other school district bond proposals. Proposition B, which would have provided more than $98 million for the renovation of middle school and high school auditoriums, lost with 54.12% voting against the proposal.
Proposition C, which would have provided more than $104 million for three stadiums, lost with 66.34% voting against the proposal.
Proposition D, which would have provided more than $76 million for the renovation of school gyms and fields, lost with 58.03% voting against the proposal. More than $904 million would go into district middle schools if the bond is approved. Rosemont Middle School, a 99-year-old campus, would receive the most money — more than $71 million.
“I think investment in this bond will allow us to get a stronger foothold in early childhood education,” Fort Worth schools Superintendent Kent Scribner told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial Board last month.
The district’s bond projects were based on a 2017 assessment that determined the specific projects and dollar values, according to district officials. The district’s long-range master plan created in preparation for the 2017 bond established specifications for high schools. Those specifications were translated to district middle schools for the proposed bond, officials said.
The bond is not expected to increase the district’s tax rate, but property valuations in Tarrant County have been trending up. Under state law, grounds for a recount require the difference of votes between the choices to be less than 10% of the number of votes received by the winning choice. For Proposition A, the threshold would be a 1,234-gap, meaning it easily qualifies.
For a ballot measure election, a recount can be requested by the campaign treasurer of a specific-purpose political committee that was involved in the election or by a petition of at least 25 eligible voters.