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Debate Continues Over School Bond and Transparency 10/4/12
CBS 7 Reporter
October 4, 2012
Midland, TX - The state comptroller has asked local government entities to be more transparent when it comes to their local debt.
Now some West Texans are asking voters to look closely at those numbers before they head to the polls next month and vote on multi million dollar bonds for both Midland and Odessa schools.
Jason Moore is a talk show host and self-proclaimed citizen watchdog. On top of that he is a contractor and a father of 3 current Ector County ISD students.
"I should be the band leader of a bond election but I'm not," Moore explains.
Moore says both districts are in debt as it is and he doesn't believe adding to it will fix any of the problems in local schools.
"The taxpayers only have one vote, it’s either for the children or you hate children; that's how its being framed right now,” Moore says. “People are going to have to start getting concerned and say we can't fix all these problems by adding more debt."
Bond Proponents argue that with a booming economy there is no better time to address school issues like overcrowding and aging facilities.
"Its an ideal time to do this," says Peggy Dean.
Dean is a certified public accountant and a member of the political action committee in support of the ECISD bond, Odessans for Kids.
"There are a lot of things that ECISD needs improvement on and they're working on those things but debt is not one of them," she claims.
Dean says that over the last 7 years, ECISD has actually decreased their property tax rate by .35 per 100.
"Now its time to start gradually raising that up so that we can put our children in good structured schools," Dean explains.
But Moore says districts need to be forthcoming about the actual cost. ECISD is proposing a $129 million bond, once it's paid off, Moore says, that number will actually be closer to $209 million.
In Midland the district is proposing a $163 million bond. At a calculated interest rate of 3.5% over 30 years Moore says the number will total around $263 million.
But Dean says these figures shouldn't shock anyone.
"A school building is going to last 50 or 60 years so you finance that over a long period of time just like your home. If you waited until you had the money to go buy a home I think we'd all be renters actually," Dean explains.
MISD Superintendent Dr. Ryder Warren says the reality of it is under state law, a large scale building initiative can only be approved and paid for by the taxpayers.
"The bond process is the only way to generate that kind of funds," he says.
Warren says in this election, he has no other choice but to trust that when voters hit the polls they are making an educated decision.
"Our folks take the time to know and that's been very impressive to me,” Dr. Warren explains. “There's very few Midlanders who will go to the polls uninformed."
Informed or not, the decision is in the hands of the voters.