San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

February 1st, 2011
Trustees look at two more single-member districts


San Marcos CISD Trustees President Kathy Hansen, left, and San Marcos CISD Superintendent Patty Shafer, right. Photo by Sean Batura.

News Reporter

In the next 90 days, San Marcos CISD trustees may vote on whether to add two single-member district seats to their board, thereby eliminating two at-large seats.

Creating seven single member districts instead of the five now in place is an option being discussed, in part, because San Marcos CISD will soon undergo redistricting to take into account new population data available from the 2010 Census.

The board of trustees currently has two at-large seats and five seats each representing a district.

Trustees President Kathy Hansen said the board probably will discuss the matter and “make a decision either way” by March or April in order to meet redistricting time lines. Hansen said she “has no idea” whether trustees will adopt the seven-district option.

If trustees opt to adopt the seven-district option, the May election would not be affected, said attorney Rolando Rios, who the school district hired to create redistricting plans. Three trustee seats are up for election in May.

Opponents of SMCISD’s single member districts have said the districts already are too small, especially given how few people vote in the elections. In the school district’s last contested trustee election, John Crowley won with 115 votes in a single-member district. Crowley’s opponent, Peter Baen, garnered 103 votes.

Asked if she has a preference for the seven-district option, Hansen said benefits and drawbacks are associated with both the current and proposed board compositions. Hansen said SMCISD pays more for at-large trustee elections than for single member district elections. She said a trustee elected by a district still represents everyone in the district. Hansen said a board composed only of at-large seats runs the risk of being dominated by people from one area of a school district.

At last week’s trustees meeting, San Marcos resident Celestino Mendez urged trustees to consider adding two single-member districts and eliminating the at-large trustee seats. Mendez said increasing the number of single member districts would decrease the cost of running for office because political campaigns would target smaller areas.

“Each board member that has a district would have a smaller area to represent and to stay in touch with,” Mendez said of the seven-district option.

Mendez was the only member of the public to speak about the single member district issue during last week’s citizen comment period. Mendez said he spoke on behalf of the American GI Forum.

Mendez also asked the board to consider holding trustee elections every two years instead of every year, and to consider changing trustee term lengths from three years to four years. Mendez said the district will save money if it does not have to pay for elections every year.

Rios said districts save money by having fewer elections, and he said longer term lengths allow board members to more thoroughly learn the ins and outs of governing and policy making.

Hansen said the board may discuss term lengths in the next few months, though she said her past attempts to spark dialogue on that subject were unsuccessful. Hansen said four years is a big commitment for a trustee, especially considering trustees are not compensated for the time they spend serving the district.

The next regular San Marcos CISD trustees meeting is scheduled for Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. The agenda for the meeting has not been finalized.

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