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Superintendent Spend-n-Whine Fest

Houston had a lot of expensive whine this week — from money-hungry superintendents intent on spending a lot more of your money. And they’ll spend every dollar they can get. Since 2000, public school revenues have grown 60 percent, even though the student population has grown only 15 percent. And yet the Texas School Alliance complains that "property tax relief" erodes their ability to tax-and-spend without fetter. Um, yes, that’s the point.

Clearly The Fiscal Creek Is Rising

Taxpayers in Clear Creek Independent School District, in Galveston County, are facing a $9.2 million tax hike. The superintendent, with a straight face, tells the local newspaper the schools have “exercised significant restraint.” Sounds nice, but that’s not what the record shows. School revenues are have risen 60 percent since 2001, even though the district only has 18 percent more students. Where’s the money going? Hint: not the classroom.

Relish This

As part of an effort to trim the county budget, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is cutting condiments from the budget. Prisoners will have to go without mustard, ketchup, sweeteners and jelly — saving taxpayers $150,000. Her office might also charge inmates for pickles, trimming another $84,000. But considering the county asked her to find $6 million in cuts, Sheriff Lupe is going to have to do better than that.

That’s Some Banjo Hall

Taxpayers in Midland and Odessa — along with the rest of us — are shelling out big bucks for a new “performing arts” center to be built between the two cities. The facility, which is described as standing “90 feet tall at its center, far surpassing the height of the nearby Highway 191 overpass on Farm-to-Market Road 1788,” is expected to cost $89 million.

French Fashion Show Tops Spring Branch ISD’s Wasteful Spending

Conservatives in Texas often talk about how wasteful our government school system can be, yet we rarely find a gem as perfectly flawed as two stories that appeared recently in the Houston Chronicle. On May 1, the Chronicle breathlessly reported “Spring Branch ISD facing insolvency” – you can almost hear the exclamation points. A month and a half later, the paper glowingly reported “Spring Branch ISD; Free summer camp focused on France.” A free French summer camp, while facing insolvency?

News You Can Use

Readers of the Houston Chronicle’s website now have a nifty tool: browse the pay of nearly every public employee in Houston and Harris County. Topping the payroll at $442,556 is HISD superintendent Abelardo Saavedra. Coming in a distant second is the “Chancellor Emeritus” of the Houston Community College, Bruce Leslie, making $336,583.

Tax Sweat

One way to avoid listening to taxpayers is to simply keep them out of earshot. Take, for example, Collin County in north Texas. County commissioners there are going to take up discussion next week on a proposal to build a county-employees-only physical fitness facility. While government shouldn’t be in the business of competing with the private sector (through “community center” programs that include work-out facilities), they certainly shouldn’t build such facilities and exclude taxpayers from use. The only thing exercised in this project is the boondoggle muscle. The only thing sweating will be the taxpayers’ nervous, over-burdened wallet.

Government Math

You gotta hand it to the bean-counters in Sugar Land, outside Houston — they sure know how to sell an idea. They’re trying to convince residents(presumably with success) that spending $18 million to get $13 million, over 25 years, is a good use of the taxpayers; money. We presume they will soon host sold-out seminars on how cities can set houses on fire to encourage new home construction.

Jindal For… Anything

So I usually don’t think much about Louisiana. I sometimes forget it’s even there, kind of like Utah or Nevada or Rhode Island. But Gov. Bobby Jindal is making conservatives take note. I’ve met him a time or two, and been as impressed as everyone else who meets him. The problem is that with each passing action, he becomes even more impressive. We need more folks like Jindal in public office.

Taxed Into Awareness

My friend Cheryl Johnson serves as tax assessor/collector for Galveston County, a position she has used to champion the rights of taxpayers. She recently penned an op-ed that proposes changing the current appraisal-driven property tax system to one where your liability is based solely on the acquisition price.