Round Rock ISD taxpayers face a critical $508 million bond election tomorrow — and special interests are pouring in money to sway the outcome.
Round Rock Forward, a PAC supporting the bond, has been a subject of controversy in the community. Local taxpayers had concerns about the PAC’s motivation after finding they had raised nearly $50,000 to use promoting the bond — 91 percent of that money coming from local construction businesses.
Additionally, one of the bond’s top proponents, construction consultant Clint Harris, recently wrote an open letter on LinkedIn appealing to the business community to donate even more to help pass the bond because “Many of you are vendors of RRISD and would benefit directly from it.”
After taxpayers discovered the letter and posted it on Facebook, Harris threatened to sue them for exposing his own words.
Harris’ appeal to special interests, however, still seemed to work.
The PAC recently released its latest campaign finance report, showing they now have nearly $100,000, with almost 94 percent of that total still from local construction businesses, contractors, and the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce.
It’s worth noting that the superintendent of RRISD, Dr. Steve Flores, sits on the board of directors for the chamber of commerce. The chamber donated $20,000 to the PAC.
The bond election has stirred controversy since its announcement. Taxpayers have noted the half-billion-dollar package has excessive cost estimates, misplaced spending priorities, and is a single up-or-down vote on the ballot, forcing citizens into an all-or-nothing decision.
A group of taxpayers have formed their own PAC to get their message out to the community. Marshall Sprigg, spokesperson for Residents for Accountability and Transparency, said they began speaking out after seeing concerning decisions from the district’s leadership.
“This bond isn’t the reasonable and moderate bond we were promised after the 2017 one failed,” said Sprigg, referring to last year’s $572 million package that failed for many of the same concerns residents have now. Sprigg noted this year’s bond is two-and-a-half to three times the $160-$200 million of critical needs the district proposed late last year.
“The district has given bloated cost estimates and has designed this bond to generate a huge surplus, which can then be spent at the discretion of the trustees,” he said.
Sprigg’s citizen PAC has raised only $4,404, all from individual residents. He said they have relied primarily on social media to provide voters with the other side of the story, and that — despite being at a 21-1 funding disadvantage to the massive Round Rock Forward PAC — their message of fiscal responsibility has resonated with the community.
“We don’t need to give a blank check to Round Rock ISD just because special interests want to get their hands on more taxpayer money,” he said. “We could come back with a reasonable bond that all of us can support, that will help the kids with the things that are high priority.”
Election Day is tomorrow, November 6.