Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stealth Election Alert: Property Tax Increases Coming

Many of our Texas School Districts get very upset when fiscal conservatives expose ISD tax rates and spending patterns.  ISD apologists are always quick to point out that "those bonds/tax rates were approved by the voters!"  Well yes, and no.  One very successful tactic employed by many of our local school districts is to hold 'stealth elections' on dates when no one is paying attention.

Next weekend, on September 1, 2012,  the Hutto Independent School District is holding a Tax Ratification Election to increase taxes by a whopping $0.13 per $100 of your property valuation.  If the district could make a good case for passing such a substantive increase, one might think they would just hold an election when voters are paying attention, say, on a real Election Day?  Turns out they did; last November voters defeated the HISD request for a $0.06 increase by 57%.  So I guess this year the ISD picked possibly the worst day of the year for voter turnout in the hopes that only tax increase supporters will show up.

But Hutto ISD is not alone; it seems that the Taylor Independent School District has chosen the second worst date in Saturday, September 8 to ask for a tax increase of...$0.13.

Now the Georgetown Independent School District has decided to ask for higher taxes too, but they won't risk all those motivated fiscal conservatives messing things up on November 6.  Georgetown residents who want a say over their tax rate will need to remember to show up for an election on Tuesday, October 9.

Rumors are swirling about other Williamson County ISD's too; apparently the Round Rock ISD Board and Administration have been using leftover bond monies and reserve funds to spend millions on pet projects they know voters are unlikely to approve.  (Like the $25 million special high school for the district's 2% dropout rate.)  RRISD is planning to approve a tax increase of 4.5 cents per $100 of property valuation next month, but there has been talk of an upcoming TRE as well.  The administration acknowledged last year that the next most urgent need for the ISD is a new middle school, and that's something they know they can hold hostage for a higher tax rate from uninformed voters.  If RRISD does ask for a TRE, my guess is that we will be presented with another 'odd' election date.

Our school districts should be controlled by residents via the democratic process.  Unfortunately, few bother to vote in ISD elections and the participation rate hovers around 6%.  Many of our ISD's apparently want even fewer voters to show up and are still striving to sneak in "voter-approved" tax increases.  

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