Billions in New Debt, Over 90% of Voters Silent

Historically, turnout in Texas’ political primaries has languished in the single-digits.  The 2014 cycle was no different, even with hotly contested Republican primary races. Less than eight percent of registered voters weighed in across our state’s largest counties.

Sadly, only a small minority participated in May’s local elections.

In total, approximately 84% of the $6.2 billion in local education debt was approved by voters via ballot propositions. Education debt remains the largest debt sector in Texas. In some elections such as Frisco ISD, turnout was a bit higher than expected, at around 9.7%!

Remember, regardless of who votes, everyone pays!

This electoral apathy is becoming increasingly expensive.  Unlike certain states like California, the Texas model of governance relies heavily on local taxing, spending and borrowing to finance government-provided services.  To the surprise of many, the local tax and debt burdens imposed on Texans are rapidly growing.

Defenders of big government wrongly attribute this phenomenon to population growth, even though compelling empirical data invalidates this claim.

An analysis conducted by the State Comptroller in 2012 found that, since 1992, property tax levies from public school districts grew 34% faster than population growth and inflation.  City levies; 57% faster. Counties; 88% faster. Between 2001 and 2011, total local government debt grew 130% faster.

Texas already has the second-highest, local debt per capita, in the nation.  And while portions of some debt propositions can be justified, the size, scope and sheer number are disturbing.

With “environmental sustainability” en vogue, few seem concerned about our unsustainable debt trends.

Fortunately, some activists are making a difference.  As we previously reported, the Garland ISD board quickly backed away from a $500 million bond this spring, after Lawrence Jones, teachers and other concerned citizens voiced their frustration with administration over personnel mismanagement and fiscal malfeasance.

A few credible, empowered voices can make a tangible difference.

Below is a list of all local education debt propositions that appeared on the May, 2014 ballot. Unofficial numbers show that over 90-93% of registered voters stayed home. As we noted, approximately 84% of the $6.2 billion of debt passed.

To learn more about local debt in your area, visit Tell The Truth Texas.  For a complete copy of the Comptroller’s comprehensive debt reports released in 2012, visit www.texastransparency.org. The website also serves as a repository of information that utilizes a searchable database interface that taxpayers can use to retrieve a variety of publicly available information.

*Propositions that passed are italicized

*Propositions that failed are in bold

(There are several propositions where the results were not yet available as of May 12th, according to TASBO.)

Source: Texas Association of School Business Officials

School DistrictReferendum #Amount
Argyle ISD 1$45,000,000
Arlington ISD 1$663,100,000
Caldwell ISD 1$5,744,000
Cameron ISD 1$5,650,000
Centerville ISD (Leon County) 1$17,000,000
Chapel Hill ISD (Smith County) 1$21,000,000
Clifton ISD1$23,300,000
Cross Roads ISD1$4,500,000
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD 1$1,209,280,000
Dickinson ISD 1$56,000,000
Dodd City ISD1$3,420,000
Dripping Springs ISD 1$92,410,000
Eanes ISD 1$89,500,000
East Bernard ISD 1$24,900,000
Electra ISD1$11,980,000
Eula ISD 1$1,277,648
Eula ISD 2$1,222,351
Ezzell ISD1$4,000,000
Falls City ISD 1$39,500,000
Forestburg ISD 1$1,900,000
Frenship ISD 1$85,200,000
Frisco ISD 1$775,000,000
Gladewater ISD 1$35,000,000
Grady ISD 1$38,000,000
Greenville ISD 1$72,275,000
Hallettsville ISD 1$11,630,000
Hardin ISD 1$16,800,000
Hartley ISD 1$6,275,000
Hays CISD 1$59,091,500
Hunt ISD 1$10,000,000
Hunt ISD 2$3,000,000
Ingram ISD 1$13,880,000
Jim Hogg County ISD1$14,000,000
Karnes City ISD1$45,000,000
La Porte ISD 1$260,000,000
Latexo ISD1$4,850,000
Leakey ISD1$6,795,000
Llano ISD 1$33,420,000
Lockhart ISD1$63,915,000
Lometa ISD 1$4,750,000
Lovejoy ISD 1$46,250,000
Lovejoy ISD 2$29,500,000
Lubbock-Cooper ISD 1$55,000,000
Manor ISD 1$124,900,000
Marble Falls ISD 1$6,550,000
Marshall ISD 1$150,000,000
Mathis ISD 1$29,000,000
Miami ISD 1$32,000,000
Moulton ISD1NA
Mount Vernon ISD1$14,000,000
Nacogdoches ISD 1$58,780,000
Navasota ISD 1$57,769,801
Navasota ISD 2$3,872,000
New Diana ISD 1$15,000,000
Nixon-Smiley CISD 1$6,500,000
Normangee ISD 1$600,000
North Hopkins ISD 1$5,000,000
North Zulch ISD 1$1,900,000
North Zulch ISD 2$400,000
Northside ISD (Bexar County) 1$648,340,000
O’Donnell ISD1$16,000,000
Onalaska ISD1$9,840,000
Onalaska ISD2$5,570,000
Onalaska ISD3$990,000
Pflugerville ISD 1$287,000,000
Pleasant Grove ISD1$16,600,000
Prosper ISD1$30,000,000
Princeton ISD 1$49,500,000
Robinson ISD 1$19,500,000
Rogers ISD 1$4,940,000
Round Rock ISD 1$234,200,000
Round Rock ISD 2$25,900,000
Round Rock ISD 3$38,900,000
Runge ISD1$22,000,000
Sanford-Fritch ISD 1$8,000,000
Slaton ISD 1$15,000,000
Slocum ISD 1$3,300,000
Snyder ISD 1$15,000,000
Somerville ISD 1$12,500,000
Stanton ISD 1$45,900,000
Sweeny ISD 1$26,000,000
Texline ISD1$4,000,000
White Oak ISD 1$25,200,000
Wichita Falls ISD 1$125,000,000
 Total $6,205,767,300

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ross Kecseg leads the Metroplex Bureau for Empower Texans and Texas Scorecard. He is a native North Texan, raised in Denton County. He studied Economics at Arizona State University with an emphasis on Public Policy and Constitutional history. Since 2008, Ross has been active in grassroots organizing, political campaigns and as an Irving ISD volunteer. He enjoys speaking to liberty-minded groups regarding the strategic effectiveness of state and local engagement. Ross is an avid golfer, automotive enthusiast, and movie/music junkie.

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