Friday, April 19, 2013

Leander ISD Trustee, Staff Skip Board Meeting to Lobby State Legislature: UPDATED

It seems that several key players were conspicuously absent from last night's Leander ISD Board meeting.  Board President Pam Waggoner, along with Superintendent Bret Champion, Assistant Superintendent Ellen Skoviera, and Executive Director of Community Relations Veronica Sopher, decided to skip the board meeting in order to attend a hearing on the state proposed ban on Capital Appreciation Bonds.

Waggoner et al, went to Austin to lobby against local debt restraint.  They claim that if legislators ban use of CABs (already proven to be quite toxic and banned elsewhere in the nation,) the state should also eliminate the "50-Cent Debt Test."  Current law does not permit school districts to incur debt that would raise the I&S tax rate above $.50 per $100 per valuation.  The 50-Cent limit was designed to keep school districts from taking on unsustainable debt, but with CABs Leander and other districts had found a way around the cap.  (Leading to LISD's $2.7 billion in debt obligations.)  Waggoner & crew fear that without the CAB option of deferring debt payment to their children and grandchildren, they won't be able to continue to borrow and spend like there's no tomorrow.

Essentially this crew skipped the board meeting to lobby for the ability to dig the district deeper into debt. 

Just a reminder from the State Comptroller's report "Your Money and Education Debt,"

In fiscal 2011, public school districts combined had one-third of outstanding Texas local government debt – $63.6 billion or $13,530 for every student in a district with debt. Of Texas’ 1,024 school districts, 854 have outstanding debt. From 2001-2011, public school districts’ total debt outstanding rose by 155.2 percent, far more than the increase in inflation. This debt is incurred locally, meaning that each district’s taxpayers are responsible for paying it back
Rather than lobby against restraint, perhaps school board trustees and staff should be looking at how to better manage finances going forward.  Again, Pam Waggoner refuses to debate her electoral challenger Jim MacKay, which is unfortunate since the taxpayers would benefit greatly from some frank discussion of the current situation.  I'm sure Leander parents want great schools with great programs, but if the district doesn't change course soon, debt service will prevent future progress.

Early Voting begins April 29, and Election Day is May 11.  See the Williamson County website for more information.

UPDATE:  A quote from Representative Dan Flynn regarding the hearings last week:

"I was disappointed by the number of hostile witnesses, including bond salesmen, testifying in support of large debts of over 2 billion for some ISD's," Representative Flynn stated after the hearing. "You have to wonder what voters would say once the transparency portions of this bill are implemented and voters are notified of this massive debt placed upon them, their children, grandchildren, and future grandchildren."


Related Posts:
Leander ISD's Financial Advisor Censured and Fined
Leander ISD Trustee Waggoner Endorsed by Far Left State Rep
State Leaders Move to Ban Leander ISD's Dangerous Borrowing Practices
LISD Debt a Major Factor in May Elections
Making Education a Priority:  Leander Football!
Leander ISD:  Storm on the Horizon

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