Wednesday, August 17, 2016

CCR 08-17-16 Questions and Kool-Aid

the   Controversial  Committee   Report
“We don’t raise sacred cows...we just butcher them.”

Questions and Kool-Aid

   The loud collective sigh heard throughout ‘beautiful downtown Irving’ this week emanates from parents of "rug rats" who will return to the "Blackboard Jungle" next week.
   (Yes, that expression is dated and also the title of an old — really old — movie.  And it is doubtful there are actually any blackboards remaining in the Irving ISD system.)

   Unbeknownst to the parents, of all the kids returning to school, is that the Irving ISD Board of Trustees will be giving parents a take home quiz which must be completed by September 10, 2016.  What?!

   Yes, dear readers, the IISD PR spin machine is in overdrive in an effort to hopefully convince voters to approve a Tax Ratification Election.  This election, on September 10, 2016, will shift monies from the Interest and Sinking Fund tax rate to the Maintenance and Operations tax rate.  The simplistic rationale, as stated by the IISD for this ‘sleight of hand’ shifting, is the potential of receiving $10M in State funds.

   While some view this windfall as "free" money for the district, the consideration that Irving tax payers have already contributed to the State’s "free" money pot is lost in any discussions.
   (Like "free" lunches, there also are no "free" State bucks.)

   To assist in the IISD PR effort to promote the approval of the Tax Ratification Election, IISD troopers and board members are picking the "low fruit voters" off the vines by visiting business clubs and PTA knitting circles; preaching to the choir of lemming supporters; and grinning at all the spin of how this tax rate shift proposal is necessary and should be approved without any questions asked by concerned voters.

   Otherwise, the IISD cannot move forward and achieve stated goals and objectives.  Really?

   And that brings us to the IISD Parental Pop Quiz.  The quiz, much like the rationale for approving the Tax Ratification Election, is extremely simplistic.  But then, maybe the IISD PR appeal is geared to a more simple element of the voting community.

   It’s time.  Turn your paper over and complete the following mandated IISD quiz:

IISD Parental Pop Quiz Questions
  • Shouldn’t all teachers be paid a decent wage for the strife they have to endure each day?  Y/N
  • Shouldn’t Irving schools be ranked and rated in the top tier of local districts?  Y/N
  • Shouldn’t Irving schools have the best equipment and technology available?  Y/N
  • Shouldn’t Irving schools equally serve all students in the district?  Y/N
  • Wouldn’t the Tax Ratification Election accomplish all of these items?  Y/N
(Turn in you papers on September 10, 2016…only if you answered Yes to each question.  If you did answer Yes, then you passed with flying colors.  Additionally, you will receive, as a bonus prize, a year’s supply of specially brewed IISD Kool-Aid.)

   What is not said in the pop quiz questions is the IISD PR machine would have potential voters believe none of the above could or would be accomplished without the passage of the Tax Ratification Election.  Claptrap!

   But Wait!  Dylan Westie, Executive editor/Part-time wordsmith and Social Media Troll for the CCR, was sniffing the grass around the IISD administration building when he discovered a document which had fallen from a trash bin headed to the district’s shredding room. 

   Apparently, the document included questions the IISD PR squad didn’t want to see the light of day or asked by voters.

   If the IISD troopers and board members were exposed to these questions in a town hall meeting, one wonders what the overall quiz results might be for the September 10, 2016, Tax Ratification Election.

Questions Needing to Be Answered for Voter Consideration
  •   If the current tax rate was to remain the same, what is the amount of NEW bucks generated — over last years tax collections — as a result of the tremendous spike in appraised property values in 2016?
  •   In addition to the NEW bucks from increased appraised values, what will be the new tax rate established for 2016-17 by the IISD board of trustees? (Bet at least 7.65% which is less than 8% and wouldn’t require a special election.)
  •   What is the total amount of NEW money generated in the 2016-17 budget by the to-be-approved new tax rate?
  •   Does the total amount of new tax money collected, as a result of a 2016-17 tax rate increase, represent more than $10M in State "free" money?
  •   Is the $10M State money incidental to any proposed 2016-17 tax rate increase by IISD?
  •   In all tax rate calculations, will the same percentage of collections be used in order to be consistent with prior actual receipts?
  •   If the shifting of rates between the M&O and I/S funds is "temporary," what provisions have been established should part of the $10M be used for 2016-17 salary increases?  (This will be a critical item for expenditure coverage in the 2017-18 budget.)
  •   Will the tax rate have to be increased in later years for this "temporary" shift of rates between the M&O and I/S funds?
  •   Specifically, what are the actual dollar commitments, by category, being considered in distributing the $10M State funds?  (Voters should know this before any ballots are cast!)
  • Was the September Tax Ratification Election date chosen to prevent this issue from having to be on the November general election ballot where there would be a considerably larger voter turn out?
  • How many Texas school districts are eligible or considering this tax rate shifting shell game?
  • What guarantees will the IISD identify to ensure voters this action will not create future financial shortfalls, or even higher tax rate increases? 
  • How long will the State maintain these "free" funds for use by school districts?
  • Wouldn’t school districts be better served if the State properly funded public education instead of bending to parlor tricks and financial sleight of hand?
  • If the Tax Ratification Election is approved, how long will it be before the I/S fund tax rate has to be increased to cover any necessary and required IISD bond sales?
  • How much will this special Tax Ratification Election cost tax payers?
  • As done in a past election, will there be specially called PTA meetings — at school voting sites — on the Tax Ratification Election day?

   Is there any wonder why the above questions might have been slated for the shredder by IISD PR folks?

   While the IISD ‘rah-rah’ squad attempts to sell the Tax Ratification Election, voters would be wise to ask when there will be genuine public hearings or a town hall meeting on this matter.  After all, not all Irving voters are members of local business clubs or PTA knitting circles. 

   Touring business clubs, which seldom ask meaty questions, or discretely ensuring faculty and staff of the IISD recognize this election as tantamount to pawning the Holy Grail for "needed" funds, leaves transparency and accountability in the closet of unanswered questions for Irving voters.

   Voters should be totally informed of all current and future details as related to the Tax Ratification Election to ensure this measure doesn’t slide through on the back of special interest groups, or slick PR promotion and selective audiences.

   As it appears now, special interest groups are being offered the IISD Kool-Aid brand to support this election.

……………………………Mark Holbrook