All of us in Allen Independent School District will be voting on a $422 million bond debt package on May 4. A large section of the Allen ISD website has information on the proposal, where you can find cost breakdowns and project descriptions. To promote the merits of the bond projects, there have been videos from Superintendent Niven and testimonials from former teachers, administrators, school board members, and community leaders.
There is even an organization called “Kids First Allen” that has been paying for signs and advertisements all around town with the tagline “Every Student, Every School. Vote YES!” It seems the message is that there are no downsides to passing the bond and that it’s essential to maintaining our district’s high standards.
But there is a voice noticeably absent from the discussion, the voice of struggling taxpayers squeezed by ever-increasing property taxes.
While it is factually accurate for the district to state “the bond proposal would not increase the debt service tax rate,” it is deliberately misleading to taxpayers, as it clouds the role home appraisals have in your tax bill. The school district can’t control property values, but the school board has complete control over the district’s budget and tax rate (within certain statutory limits); they can increase or decrease them with wide discretion.
The simple fact is: When the district issues a bond, it must raise additional revenue to pay for that bond issue. If the tax rate doesn’t increase, that additional revenue comes from increased property values. In effect, rising appraisals afford the district an opportunity to disguise tax increases behind flat or even lowered tax rates.
From the wealth of information available from proponents, it is clear that projects in the bond will be beneficial, and some may indeed be “needs” for the district. But with property taxes skyrocketing and uncertainty surrounding the state legislature’s efforts to offer property tax relief, the taxpayers of Allen ISD need to make tough choices.
When times are hard for people individually, when they’re living paycheck to paycheck, they have to make tough choices. Sometimes they may have to skip getting the “best” for their family. Sometimes they have to make that car or stove last longer than it was meant to.
With this bond, though, taxpayers aren’t given a choice. The bond categories aren’t divided on your ballot; it’s one choice: yes or no for everything. All or nothing.
Maybe the district should replace the agriculture center, but can save on remodeling the administration building? Maybe the district should spend to increase safety and do maintenance on schools but shouldn’t spend so much on “mobile devices”? Unfortunately, taxpayers weren’t given those choices.
The City of Allen gave taxpayers choices in 2016 with their comparatively small $93 million bond. They divided each “category” of projects into five ballot questions. Taxpayers could vote for public safety and against parks & recreation, or for public art and against public facilities. Even Collin County’s much larger $750 million transportation bond last year was divided into three categories. It’s hard to see why the district would make this an all-or-nothing decision when smaller and larger bonds could be easily divided into multiple ballot questions.
We are all blessed to live in Allen and have some of the best schools in the state, but we need to take a step back and consider delaying approval of this bond until we know the full scope of tax relief from the state. It’s possible the district could be in better or worse shape to afford a bond after the legislative session has concluded.
There are people in Allen being taxed out of their homes.
If the bond does not pass, the district will likely propose another one next year. It is possible they would even reconsider what their “needs” are. A new bond could also be proposed in pieces to let taxpayers decide the merits of each project category individually, rather than an all-or-nothing decision.
As stated on the Kids First Allen website, if the bond is defeated, “the Board and the District will come up with an alternate plan to address the needs of the District while maintaining the same high quality educational opportunities and facilities we enjoy today.” A simple year-long delay will allow reconsideration of all the projects and proposals without impacting the quality of our district.
Vote for a reasonable delay. Vote for a reconsideration. Vote for taxpayer choice. Vote NO on the Allen ISD Bond.
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