The La Vernia News presents both sides of the $33M school bond election for voters to consider. Read the "For" article at http://lavernianews.com/2012.
By N. Chopin
I will vote “no” May 7 on the proposed LVISD $33 million bond and I base my decision on the way LVISD has spent taxpayer bond funds in the past. With all of the taxpayer-approved bonds since 2004, the debt per student is now $14,532. In the past, it has been as high as $20,000 per student. Visit http://www.texastransparency.org/Special_Feature
s/Debt_at_a_Glance to see what is happening to the taxpayer in LVISD. Click on “Cities,” then La Vernia to see the debt history. Eye opener!
In the last 10 years, LVISD has hit the taxpayers for a $9 million bond, a $36 million bond, and obtained $1.5 million from the 2009 stimulus fund. The $36 million bond provided for new buildings that currently exist and tennis courts (lighted), along with a new football field (and a $500,000 special grass for the field), band hall, auditorium (also used by the city of La Vernia), and technology; $857,000 was spent for 89 acres of land. Numerous things were done without being “detailed” in those bond proposals.
The $36 million bond was based on a 2005-06 “increased enrollment projection” that did not pan out. In 2005-06, LVISD still had $1 million left in their account from the previous bond and the $9M bond became very questionable, but voters just gave them anything they wanted without questioning the new bond request.
Here is a “recap of increased enrollment projections” based on the chart provided on their website. From 2016-17 to 2025 there is a projected increase of 606 new students! WOW. And we have to give them $33 million to handle less than 1,000 students in the next 10 years? Let’s go back and look at what the “actual” number of students from 2006 -- 2,468 students -- and now in 2016 -- 3,430 students. An actual difference of 962 “increased enrollment.” It would be interesting to contact LVISD and ask them where they are getting their projections. A good question for LVISD would be: What is the student-teacher ratio?
These statistics tell me that bonds totaling $45 million dollars should have been adequate to accommodate the 962 additional students at the campus. If the voters of LVISD vote for this bond, then shame on them. How many of you have lost money in the stock market? How many no longer receive any dividends from your savings or money market accounts? How many of you do not even have any money left over from your paycheck to open a savings account?
Voters need to understand that if you approve this bond, your tax rate will go from $1.375 cents per $100 valuation to $1.53 per $100 of your property valuation. Based on my calculations and understanding of how the tax is applied, this will mean an increase of $271.65 a year, based on the average district home value of $200,259, less the $25,000 homestead exemption. Most individuals are losing that amount each year, more or less, because of the current economy environment.
Think about this. Be responsible; pull your tax statement, know what your property and home are appraised at and divide that by 100 and multiply it by $1.53 and you will see for yourself. Be responsible before you vote. Your home “appreciates” each year, so as the value goes up, your taxes will also go up! Only mobile home values depreciate and their values go down each year, or at least they should.
Now let’s look at LVISD assets. LVISD in 2010 acquired 89 acres or prime land off U.S. 87 and F.M. 1346 from Bernie Edward Ramzinski and his wife, Laura -- who happened to be the LVISD finance director at the time. I am confident that the Ramzinskis are enjoying their retirement with the LVISD purchase of their homestead for $857,329.92 (cash) on Aug. 12, 2010. At that time, Superintendent Harvey advised me that this was an investment for a new campus that LVISD would need in 10 years because they anticipated an enrollment of 10,000 students! Really? Where are they now? We are six years into the 10 years of that acquisition and based on the district’s presentation online, the projected enrollment is only 3,831 for 2020. I do believe someone is pulling figures out of the sky, just like the federal government does when it wants money to blow. Why doesn’t LVISD sell this land or part of it and use that money for portable classrooms? By the way, this was accomplished about the time they received the $1.5 million from the 2009 stimulus money from the federal government.
In addition, around 2005-06, LVISD paid $220,000 for land on the other side of the Cibolo under the guise of using it for an extended campus. But they found out there was no water or electricity for their plans. So it is now a baseball field. An individual within the La Vernia clique again benefited from that acquisition.
Based on the district’s presentation, LVISD enrollment is projected to grow by 606 students. Here is what they want for those 606 students.
For $13,108,000, your tax dollars will pay for the following:
•26 classrooms -- for current or future students? Which is it?
•New library. What is wrong with the existing one? Justify this.
•New band hall -- because the high school and junior high school have to “share” the brand new band hall? Why this? Students cannot “share” anymore?
•“Repurpose the 100 building, a 1930 original structure, for “future administrative offices.” This is taking your tax dollars to restore a historical building. Wrong use of tax.
•Traffic circulation improvements. How and where?
For $14,707,000, your tax dollars will pay for:
•A secured entry vestibule and reconfigured administrative and support services offices. This means a fence around the entire campus with guard gates (unaware of the need for either one of these). Hire security guards.
•New cafeteria and kitchen, repurposing. Why? Sharing is great.
•Renovate showers, restrooms, and laundry for boys’ and girls’ athletics. This building is less than six years old. Is LVISD not taking care of the facilities to need updating?
For $400,000, they want to improve wireless Internet capability and network operations. Such a small amount that really would support learning capabilities for students? There have been upgrades for the last six years!
The $5,000,000 for “other district improvements” is highly questionable to me. What type of contractor did we have when we approved the $36 million bond in 2009-10? And of course “more infrastructure to improve traffic circulation.”
Now here is the “kicker.” The Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) recommends that if there is “any money left over” from this proposed $33 million bond, they want to:
•Add classrooms at the intermediate school. Do portable buildings.
•Upgrades to the junior high gym. Isn’t this a 5-year-old facility? They want to do plumbing and upgrade HVAC?
•Create additional parking at the junior high school by relocating the existing LVISD tennis courts to the sports complex? We paid for these lighted tennis courts in the last $36 million bond. What sports complex? Why move them?
This proposed $33 million bond stinks to high heaven of a means to waste tax dollars. I question the LVISD’s ability to select reputable contractors that provide high quality work.
Why would all of the “remodeling” need to be accomplished within six years of having a brand new campus built with the $36 million? The LRPC consisted of local LV citizens, civic and business leaders, parents, teachers, and district administrators -- really? I think that this group was working in a vacuum, no outside input from professionals. This is another La Vernia inside request for money. Who is going to benefit from all the upgrades and new facilities --the students or the city of La Vernia?
I call this bond proposal another “pie in the sky” and would continue to pamper schoolchildren who do not want to walk from one building to another in the weather because they might get wet. Or maybe it is the administrators who want the “perfect campus.”
I do understand the need for security; hire more security guards and do not use teachers to play security guard. LVISD needs to wake up and smell the roses. The country is on the verge of financial collapse, owing $19 trillion, and LVISD wants to burden the taxpayers to pay for additional frivolous things.
I see nothing that indicates this money will benefit “teaching students” or any benefits for students to learn, only to make it a fun place to play tennis, football, band, and all the “extra-curricular activities” that students can benefit from, but not learning.
Please do not vote for this increase. It will be coming out of your pocket, not theirs.
LVISD should sell some of the 89 acres it purchased in 2010, use that money to purchase portable buildings until the economy settles down, and then go back to the drawing board and be more realistic with “increased” enrollment in the out years. But this time, bring in some professionals to substantiate any future proposed bonds. Taking taxpayer money to build a beautiful school campus to entice people to move to La Vernia is wrong. There are other ways to increase the population!
Students are in school to learn and I would think that LVISD would want to be known for excellence in learning -- even in a 6-year-old campus with students having to walk to class and share facilities.
Just how many times do you the taxpayer upgrade your home? Every six years? Spending $500,000 on a “temporary” fix is more in line with sound money management -- not purchasing the Cadillac just because it will be prettier than that Ford Focus!