Taxpayers fight bond elections
By 01/30/2003 00:00:00
The Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE - The Taxpayers Alliance for Good Government is urging voters in the Waxahachie and the Midlothian Independent School Districts to vote against new bond proposals, because the plans could add on to an already hefty property tax bill for many residents.
If voters approve the $48 million WISD bond proposal Feb. 1, the district would build a second junior high school, build an addition onto Turner Middle School, buy land and purchase temporary classrooms for several campuses.
'I'm all in favor of improving our schools and building new schools to accommodate this growing number of students, but the times just are not right,' said WISD resident Melissa Baker, who plans to vote against the proposal. 'It's time to make do with what we have.'
If passed, roughly $15 million plus $3 million from a 1999 bond package would provide the junior high and TMS improvements.
Residents would, according to WISD Superintendent Dr. Bobby Parker, see an increase of nearly $7 each month, based on a home with a value of $100,000.
MISD residents, if the bond election passed, would see a 22-cent tax increase spread over a three-year period.
Roughly $58 million in the MISD plan would be used to construct a new high school and football stadium, as well as other athletic facilities. The rest of the bond money would go towards new elementary sc-hools and capital improvements.
TAGG obtained the list of all people in
Waxahachie who protested their taxes last year and is planning to mail postcards and flyers urging them to vote no on Election Day.
Before leaving for the La Porte ISD, Superintendent Molly Helmlinger said she wanted to make it where students could have individual laptop computers.
Unlike the MISD, the remaining $33 million of the WISD bond package would be sold only if student population increases beyond projections.
Parker said there would be no tax impact on the $33 million package until those bonds are sold.
'Here's government [Parker] sitting across the table from us,' said former Taxpayers Alliance for Good Government chairman Marshal Evans. 'Give us the right to all this money, we won't use it. I don't know who he thought he was talking to, but we're not at a PTA [Parent Teacher Association] meeting. We're the kind [of people] to fight this thing.'
The WISD sought the advice of a Facilities Study Committee, a group comprised of 25 district residents.
According to Parker, the committee's original recommendation called for a $78 million bond package.
'This is like a Who's Who list of people who opposed the Rollback,' said Evans, referring to the March 2001 election when county residents voted to decrease a 26-cent tax increase.
Members of the committee include relatives of current WISD employees, as well as a Waxahachie City Councilman and a newspaper publisher.
'I just wonder about their interests, especially if [members] are related to employees,' said WISD resident and Republican Party of Ellis County Chairman John Tabor. 'I could come up with a committee that would tell you something different.'
If both districts' bond elections were unsuccessful, the school board would have to purchase portable buildings and would probably come back at a later date to push a new bond proposal, according to Keiser.
'We figure they're already mad about their appraised values,' Evans said. 'We're hoping they still don't like high taxes.'
And at $1.72 per $100 of home valuation, the MISD has one of the highest tax rates in the area.
'Midlothian has the third highest tax rate in the area, but has a taxable value of $2.2 billion,' said Midlothian resident Duff Hale, also a columnist for The Ellis County Press.
Hale said the tax rate should be considerably lower given the taxable value of the district, which is also one of the fastest growing in the state.
'It didn't take that much to pass the last bond election,' he said.
In 1999, only 294 MISD voters approved a $46 million bond package, one that saw the construction of the district's ninth-grade campus, two elementary schools, an intermediate school, an administration building expansion and other improvements.
The freshman annex has since become home to 9-10 grades, and has experienced extensive drainage problems and has had sewage leaks.
'We have people calling and telling us they won't be able to live here any longer if the [taxes] keep going up,' said former TAGG chairman Marshal Evans. 'The school district's aren't going to stop spending on their own. We've got to put our foot down.'
'None of us like higher taxes, but these aren't big dollars,' Keiser said. 'Five or $10 a month [tax increase] isn't a reason to move.'