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

April 26th, 2013
Commentary: Waiting for a better bond proposal

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EDITOR’S NOTE: In the run-up to the May 11 school bond election, the San Marcos Mercury has invited a cross-section of community members to weigh in on the proposed $77 million capital improvement program. Early voting starts April 29.

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I chose to live in San Marcos so that my children could attend a great school district that was close to the university, had great teachers, and provided a safe learning environment. With a daughter who has graduated and chosen a career in welding, and a son who is now a sophomore at the high school, I am proud of my school district, and the job we have done jointly towards the future success of my children.

There are two reasons that I will be waiting for a better plan from our school board, and voting ‘no’ on both proposals. First, they amount to mortgaging our children’s future and, secondly, they were planned with a lack of transparency in the process.

I feel that the voters have not been given full disclosure on the costs of the bond proposals. It is a key responsibility of both parents and educators to teach our children the skill of Financial Responsibility for their future. SMCISD has increased its debt over 564 percent in the last twelve years according to figures from the Texas state government. It is in the top 10 percent in the state for increase in debt.

Until we can have an agreement on an acceptable threshold level of debt that we will carry, we need to put away the credit card. Every one of the families and business owners in San Marcos has to determine the difference between “needs” and “wants” each and every month, and make those tough decisions in order to live within a budget, with an eye towards the future. Our school district should be leading by example, and working to lower our debt exposure. At this time, we need to budget money for repairs to the Corolla instead of borrowing the money for a new Lexus.

animated walking debt

San Marcos CISD debt

School district’s total outstanding debt

Principal: $112,154,959

Principal + Interest: $174,132,879

Budget impact of school district debt

Total revenue (fy 2012-13): $54,841,991

Debt service (fy 2012-13): $10,179,022

Debt service ratio (fy 2012-13): 18.5 percent

Fitch Ratings considers 15 percent average. Standard & Poors considers below a ratio below 8 percent a “low” debt level and a ratio 8 and 15 percent a “moderate” debt load.

Proposed new debt on ballot: $76,980,000

Percentage increase in debt: 59 percent

Just as most consumers are not happy with “bundling” from their communications providers, desiring to pay for just what they need, the voters of the district have been very clear that they are not happy with the choices presented for this bond election.

Most would not argue against repairs for buildings, but when bundled with new facilities that we do not have funding to staff, while running a $1 million budget deficit for the last two years, it makes less financial sense to most voters who struggle to maintain their households every month.

The proposals that we now have, for the most part, are the same that were presented in a phone survey to 320 residents in January. The marketing company was paid over $22,000 to determine that a bond proposal around $80 million could pass, if marketed correctly to the voters. This same list, with very few modifications, is what was presented to the Citizens Advisory Committee in January when they first met, and then presented to the board in February. I would ask that we take more time to discuss the expedience of increasing our outstanding debt by almost 60 percent.

I will continue to praise our schools, work to retain our young graduates in the community, and labor towards a sound financial future for future generations of students and their parents over the next 25 years. Meanwhile, I will be waiting for a more financially sensible proposal.

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ROARK is a San Marcos resident and former congressional candidate who describes himself as a ”blue collar Republican.”

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6 thoughts on “Commentary: Waiting for a better bond proposal

  1. I agree. I will not be voting fot the bond issue, either. As a family, we have to prioritize how to spend our money. I agree that smcisd should, also.

  2. I totally agree with Rob. As a real estate professional local debt load is becoming more of a conversation with my clients. Currently our city, county, and ISD debt is quite high in comparison to what it was ten years ago. The increase has far outpaced population growth to a point that this kind of debt load cannot be sustained. I think that we need to put the brakes on and vote no for these propositions and work with what we have.

  3. There will be future bonds to vote on — this is not a “vote for the bonds or the schools die” situation. If we can stand our ground this time and vote against the propositions, maybe the next round of bond proposals will be more fiscally conservative and will separate the wants from the needs; one would hope!

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