Historically, turnout in Texas’ political primaries has languished in the single-digits. Considering that many races from within each party are uncontested, it’s somewhat understandable. But countless, hotly contested Republican races this March still failed to entice more than eight percent turnout across our state’s largest counties.
It’s likely an even smaller minority will cast a ballot in May’s local elections.
This apathy is becoming increasingly expensive. Unlike certain states like California, the Texas model of governance relies heavily on local taxing, spending and borrowing to finance government-provided services. To the surprise of many, the local tax and debt burdens imposed on Texans are rapidly growing. And while defenders of big government attribute this phenomenon to population growth, empirical data invalidates this claim.
An analysis conducted by the State Comptroller in 2012 found that, since 1992, property tax levies from public school districts grew 34% faster than population and inflation. City levies; 57% faster. Counties; 88% faster.
Local elections aren’t just about electing candidates that will more prudently represent taxpayers. Unlike the non-binding, policy propositions on the primary ballot, May’s election will include more costly debt proposals that have, in part, directly led to Texas’ growing debt epidemic.
In other words, your decision to vote in May will directly affect your family’s finances.
Texas already has the second-highest, local debt per capita, in the nation. And while portions of some debt propositions can be justified, the size, scope and sheer number are disturbing.
Fortunately, there’s a silver lining.
Low turnout and relatively small districts make local officials far more accountable to the public. As we recently reported, the Garland ISD board quickly backed away from a $500 million bond this spring, after Lawrence Jones , teachers and other concerned citizens voiced their frustration with administration over personnel mismanagement and fiscal malfeasance.
A few loud, informed voices can make a tangible difference.
Below is a list of debt propositions in the DFW area that have already been approved by their respective councils and trustees, and are set to appear on the May, 2014 ballot. Most of your neighbors will be unaware that such a proposition is even on the ballot.
Remember, regardless of who votes, everyone pays!
Bond Proposition Amount: $663,129,278
Bond Proposition Amount: $45,000,000
Farmers Branch City
Bond Proposition Amount: $23,500,000
Fort Worth City
Bond Proposition Amount: $292,075,000
Bond Proposition Amount: $775,000,000
Bond Proposition Amount: $72,275,000
Bond Proposition Amount: $75,750,000
Note: In an effort to educate the public in accordance with our mission, we welcome open communication with local officials and informed citizens regarding local propositions. You may contact me directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 469.224.7727.