By SEAN BATURA
The San Marcos City Council agreed last week to give The Master’s School two more years to repay a $345,000 loan the city granted last year under an economic development agreement.
The vote went 4-1 in favor of the extension.
The city originally gave The Master’s School one year from Aug, 14, 2008, to repay the loan, either in multiple installments or in one lump sum, plus three percent interest. The school failed to make any payments until more than a month after the loan became due, after the city sent multiple demand letters requesting full repayment.
In a letter he sent to the city on Oct. 9, Master’s School President David McCall apologized and cited confusion by the school’s board members about the loan’s due date, “the current economic climate,” and “significant unexpected cost overruns” associated with the building of a new campus.
McCall met with San Marcos City Manager Rick Menchaca on Aug. 25 to discuss the loan. After relaying the school’s request for an extension to the city council during an executive session on Sept. 15, Menchaca on Sept. 18 sent a demand letter notifying McCall that councilmembers wanted the full amount by Oct. 16.
The Master’s School, which requires every prospective student’s family to sign a “Statement of Faith” as a condition of admission, now has until Aug. 14, 2011 to pay the city back. The Master’s School last month offered to pay $34,500 on Nov. 2, $34,500 on Aug. 14, 2010, plus interest, and the remainder of the principle plus interest on Aug. 14, 2011. The council’s vote last week was effectively an acceptance of the school’s proposal.
Councilmember Gaylord Bose cast the lone vote against the extension. Councilmembers Chris Jones and John Thomaides were absent during the vote.
On Aug. 14, 2008, the city council passed a resolution (2008-114R) that declared The Master’s School loan “a public necessity.” Thomaides and Bose voted against 2008-114R.
The city offered the loan by using a state law that allows municipalities to develop programs “to promote state or local economic development and to stimulate business and commercial activity,” in the language of Chapter 380 of the Texas Local Government Code. Accordingly, 2008-114R states that the Master’s School loan is “necessary to stimulate business and commercial activity within the city” because the school increases the diversity of educational opportunities in the city, thereby enhancing the city’s ability to retain existing residents and employers and attract new ones.
Other benefits of the loan touted by 2008-114R include “new opportunity for other retail and service businesses that serve the needs of schools and their employees” and “10 new full-time employment positions with a projected payroll of $120,000.”
According to the San Marcos Baptist Academy’s current student handbook, “The Academy does not discriminate on the basis of faith, race, national or ethnic origins.” The Baptist School’s application for admission does not include the Statement of Faith required by the Master’s School.
According to a nondiscrimination clause in the Chapter 380 Economic Development Agreement between The Master’s School and the city established by 2008-114R, the school is prohibited from conducting “impermissible discrimination under applicable state and federal laws” in its provision of services or employment practices.
After last week’s vote, Bose said he voted against extending the loan to The Master’s School “on principles,” and said that though he is “all for the Biblical principles being taught” and “all for Christian schools,” he has seen too many cases where people compromised their religious values after receiving aid from government.
“I profess Christianity myself, but I’ve always been one to keep secular things and spiritual things separate,” Bose said. “And when religious or church things start asking, then you’re stepping away from your faith, and your principles you live by. And then when you start doing that, when you give your word about something, then you keep your word. I grew up in an area where when a man gave his word, that was it, and if you couldn’t do it, you made sure that everything was taken care of.”
The Master’s School declined to comment, and no representative of that organization addressed the council at the meeting before or after the council voted to extend the loan. The Master’s School later refused to comment.
“It’s our job to keep businesses and schools in business, and support them,” said Councilmember Pam Couch after vote. “I know we have a lot of people come up here and talk about how we need to support small businesses and keep small businesses going, and we do support a lot of businesses. And so this is kind of a good business (that is) investing in a lot of young lives that are putting back into our community.”
Couch said the one of the council’s goals is “to further education,” adding that some of the top students in San Marcos High School’s class of 2010 attended the Master’s School.
“So it’s a value to bring those kids back into the public school as strong students,” Couch said. “So there’s lot of good things that are coming out of that. They are just like everybody else. The economic climate has affected everything.”Email | Print