Monday, April 25, 2011

Will The Real Diane Cox Please Stand Up?

At one of last week's forums for the Round Rock Independent School District Board, candidates were asked about raising district property taxes without voter approval.  According to the Round Rock Leader, Diane Cox replied, "If we do raise taxes even by that small of an amount we need to get voter approval." 

What the Leader story did not deign to mention is the fact that Diane Cox serves as President of the Central Texas School Board Association, and that CTSBA is actively lobbying to change State law to allow school districts to raise property taxes without voter approval.  Not only is Ms. Cox the President of this organization, but on August 19 of 2010, she presented to the RRISD Board an agenda item* that includes the following:
Additional Golden Pennies: The current finance system requires school districts to seek voter approval in setting the maintenance and operation tax rate above $1.04. Legislation is needed which grants school boards the discretion of two additional golden pennies without voter approval."
Interestingly enough, the CTSBA brochure outlining their 2011 legislative agenda (which includes the above item,) states "Publication design by RRISD."  Sounds like the RRISD and the CTSBA have been working very, very closely.

While the Round Rock Leader has chosen to ignore this information, the Community Impact Newspaper's report includes the following:
In previous years, the Central Texas School Board Association, which Cox is president of, has lobbied at the Texas Capitol for a measure that would allow school boards to raise taxes without voters' consent. Cox said that she is not lobbying for such a measure this year, but noted, “There is a fundamental issue with the whole [education finance] system."

Of course, Diane Cox' desire for the power to raise taxes without voter approval is no secret to political activists in Williamson County.  Last Fall at a candidate forum for Texas House District 52 candidates, Ms. Cox asked Larry Gonzales and Diana Maldonado if they would support raising the tax cap without voter approval.  According to witnesses, Cox became so upset with the resulting conversation that she stomped out of the building. 

Challenger David Dziadziola has been adamant about keeping voters involved in the process of setting tax rates.  Matt Stillwell, who is challenging Brian Sellers, gave an interesting answer when asked if he favored allowing tax increases without voter approval, "In extreme circumstances, it would be a good thing to have in the toolbox, but as a general rule, it should be put to a vote."   Well, alrighty then.

Perhaps Diane Cox has had a change of heart about this important policy issue.  If so, she should resign as CTSBA President and repudiate its legislative agenda.  If not, it doesn't seem she is being entirely genuine about her stance on the issue. 

*See pages 43-44

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