Proponents of school bonds often claim they’re investing in the future, but in one North Texas school district, vendors and homebuilders appear to be investing in themselves.
Private corporations, not individuals or district parents, made up more than 99 percent of the campaign contributions given to a pro-bond PAC promoting Denton ISD’s record-high proposal on May 5. All but one of those out-of-town companies are expected to directly profit off the $750 million proposition they’re asking voters to pass.
In total, corporations gave $116,000 to the pro-bond PAC “For the Future.” Only three individuals made contributions to the PAC, totaling $400, or only 0.3 percent of its total funding. An opposition PAC was filed, but is inactive.
Proponents of the DISD bond claim the $750 million in new debt – to be repaid by current and future property taxpayers – is all about helping children. In reality, the companies who will receive millions in contracts appear to be helping themselves at taxpayer expense. And anyone who dares to question the appearance of cronyism is shouted down as being “anti-public education.”
The companies that made the largest pro-bond PAC contributions were Balfour Beatty of Dallas ($30,000), Highland Homes of Dallas ($30,000), CBS Mechanical of Denton ($20,000), VLK Architects of Fort Worth ($10,000), and Candace McShane Construction of Addison ($7,000).
Other corporate contributors were Johnson, Haddon, and Williams of Carrollton ($4,000), Huckabee of Fort Worth ($5,500), C&G Electric of Krum ($2,500), Teague, Nall and Perkins of Fort Worth ($2,000), Armko Industries of Flower Mound ($1,000), J&S Equipment of Richardson ($1,000), Reed, Wells Benson of Dallas ($1,000), One Source Commercial Flooring of Plano ($1,000), and Estes, McClure & Associates of Tyler ($1,000).
Voters shouldn’t be surprised when businesses put their own interests first. Each of these entities would profit financially from the bond’s passage, either directly or indirectly. And $116,000 is a small price to pay for a $750 million return. But taxpayers would be foolish not to question bond’s price tag, and merit.
The cronyism of government contracting is nothing new. We’ve previously reported on the fact that school district contractors are usually the primary financiers of pro-bond campaigns designed to guilt-trip voters into approving massive debt.
If passed on May 5, the $750 mega-bond will be the most expensive in Denton ISD history, and will dramatically raise property taxes on residents. It tops the district’s past three bond packages combined. DISD voters approved a $312-million bond package in 2013, $282 million in 2007, and $152 million in 2004. DISD taxpayers are already on the hook for $1.4 billion in total outstanding debt, all of which is repaid with higher property taxes.
While district officials float claims that there will not be an “increase in the tax rate,” it’s misleading. If approved, the average homeowners’ total school tax bill will increase dramatically, due to skyrocketing home values.
The 2018 bond election is set for Saturday, May 5.