I believe we should support measures to improve our schools in a fiscally responsible manner. But to do so, our school boards must be transparent and honest with taxpayers about the district’s needs, wants, and nice-to-haves.

Frisco Independent School District’s $691 million bond package and tax ratification election (TRE), both unanimously approved by the FISD board and on the ballot this November, do not pass those tests.

Bond Package

FISD bundled all its needs, wants, and nice-to-haves in a single $691 million bond package. There is no priority for funding—it’s all or nothing. New schools, refurbishing old schools, turfing baseball fields, and a $43 million high school performing arts center all carry equal weight. The board isn’t required to package bonds in this manner; they simply chose to do so.

The school district also isn’t legally required to spend the money on specific projects. Money allocated for one project could be used on another project, or for something entirely different.

FISD could have created individual bonds for each item in the current package or built smaller “packaged” bonds of like items. But that comes with significant consequences. It would give voters a chance to choose what they feel is necessary or a priority. More importantly, the money passed for each individual bond could only be used for items listed in that bond. In other words, more transparency, more accountability, and less opportunity for money “shell games.”

By packing every funding request into a single bond, I believe FISD hopes the stated “needs” (new buildings, security measures, renovations) will influence voters to pass the bond over their own concerns for some of the “wants” and “nice-to-haves.” The result: FISD is rewarded its entire wish list of wants, like a 1,200-seat high school performing arts center and turfed baseball and softball fields.

I believe the voters should have a bigger voice in deciding the needs, wants, and nice-to-haves for FISD and not be forced to vote for a $691 million all-or-nothing bond. FISD is holding the citizens of Frisco hostage with a “give us everything, or you get nothing” bond package. As parents, voters, and taxpayers, we deserve better.

For these reasons, I am voting NO on the bond package.

Tax Ratification Election (TRE)

FISD’s total tax rate is actually made up of two tax rates: Maintenance and Operations (M&O) and Interest and Sinking (I&S). M&O is the portion of taxes used to run and maintain our schools. I&S funds are used to pay off bond debt and interest and cannot be used for any other purposes.

Let’s look at some facts.

The school tax rate is already set. All taxpayers will receive a two-cent school tax rate reduction even if the TRE fails. The TRE will simply decide how the taxes are allocated between M&O and I&S.

On the I&S tax rate, FISD is knowingly overtaxing the citizens of Frisco. The proof is contained in FISD’s own 2018-19 Budget, which reads on page 23, “The Board of Trustees strives to maintain a Debt Service fund balance of approximately 10% of next year’s debt service after the August debt payment.”

At the end of this past school year, that number was projected to be 28.6 percent. Without an I&S tax rate reduction, at the end of the 2021 school year the debt service fund balance is projected to be 101.2 percent—ten times the target amount—which equals over $282 million dollars!

FISD trustees could simply vote to reduce the I&S tax rate at any board meeting in order to stop the over-taxation, but they’ve chosen not to do so.

On the M&O side, any tax rate increase over the state-allowed rate requires, by law, approval from the district’s voters via a TRE.

FISD trustees voted to hold a TRE so the taxpayers of Frisco could vote to raise their tax rate on the M&O side and, as a quid pro quo, FISD would stop overtaxing on the I&S side. FISD calls this a “Tax Swap,” but it’s not really a swap. FISD is simply agreeing to stop overtaxing the citizens of Frisco on one side if the voters agree to raise their own taxes on the other!

What’s worse, if the TRE fails, FISD’s overall tax rate will still go down by two cents, but FISD will then knowingly continue to overtax its citizens on the I&S tax rate! Ask yourself: Is that fair, honest, or moral?

My answer is no. I believe the citizens of Frisco deserve better. I am voting NO on the TRE.

Frisco ISD’s TRE and bond are on the November 6 ballot. Early voting runs through November 2.

This is an outside commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@empowertexans.com.

Paul Gosnell

Gosnell is a retired USMC Lt. Col. currently involved in training corporate aircraft pilots. A resident of Frisco since 2004, he is actively engaged as a volunteer and leader in his neighborhood, school district, and city.