Paradise ISD voters have hung their schools, and their kids, out to dry.
It may sound harsh, but I have to be blunt. If there was ever a time when a school district needed the support of the community, it was a few weeks ago.
The school needed 8 cents added onto the tax rate to stay afloat – and more importantly they needed $3.25 million in bond money to make much-needed repairs to a wastewater system and a roof.
As voters, people have the right to decide on issues however they want. If you don’t like something or someone on the ballot, vote against it. However, with that power comes civic responsibility – a duty to do what is right for the community.
It is all fine and good to want lower taxes, but sometimes we have to make the sacrifice.
Too few were willing to do that, and now PISD is looking down the barrel of what could possibly be crippling expenses – all while continuing to serve voters’ children and grandchildren.
The problems PISD is facing sound almost like some made-for-TV movie.
The roof of the intermediate school is leaking and in disrepair.
Worse yet, now the district has to figure out how to pay for a new wastewater treatment facility and stay in compliance with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
None of this is optional. Without fixing that roof and repairing that wastewater plant, the schools can’t operate. Not making the repairs is not an option.
Sure, the district has money in its fund balance to cover some of these costs. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, though.
The nearly $3 million left in the fund balance is just enough to cover about two-and-a-half months of the schools’ operation. That is the state standard – meaning if that number decreases, the district just has to scrimp, save and do whatever it takes in the future to replenish that cash. That’s not something a bond can take care of, either.
Spending the fund balance is borrowing against the students’ future. Better programs, teachers or services could hit the chopping block because voters didn’t want to spend the money.
How much money is it really? The 8-cent tax hike would have cost an additional $80 per year in property taxes for homeowners with a house valued at $100,000.
It’s been more than a dozen years since PISD raised taxes. In fact, the maintenance-and-operations rate in 2003 was $1.50, which was lowered because of laws passed by the state legislature. The M&O rate was down to the current rate of $1.04 by 2005.
The really sad part is the new bond would not have cost anyone anything more in taxes each year. Property owners already pay a 30-cent I&S tax, which wouldn’t have increased.
This means the bond got defeated not because people were afraid their yearly taxes would go up, but just because they didn’t want the schools to have the money to repair a roof and upgrade the wastewater plant.
The district still has options to fund these projects, but they will do so with no support from the people who rely on their services.
Jimmy Alford is a graphic designer, photographer and reporter for the Messenger.