It is so rare that one of the flagship newspaper editorial boards in Texas tries to talk sense to government that we should give them credit when they do.  Case in point:  today’s editorial “Pull back on rapid tax increases” in the Austin American-Statesman.

There is a lot of good sense in this piece, but I think the most crucial part, the part that should resonate throughout the state to every school district board, is this:

For its part, the school district should put a moratorium on building new schools until all seats in existing schools are filled. That requires shifting boundaries, which is tough politically.


It’s a waste of money to continue building new schools while seats in existing schools are empty.


School trustees should not put a tax increase referendum before voters in November or May. They know the city already is planning a big bond package and Central Health also is contemplating raising taxes.


The Austin school district has more than enough money in reserves to satisfy district needs, and this is the time to use those funds. Piling another tax increase on top of what the city, county and other taxing entities are likely to charge will only worsen factors that are pricing longtime residents out of Austin.

Can we get an “amen”!

This needs to be taken to heart.  While there are good reasons for new construction when there is significant, sustained growth, and while there is no doubt that taxpayers should always have the final say, school districts would do well to take into account all the factors available before raising taxes or asking for bond funds.

With the current school finance debate, it is especially crucial that school officials practice extreme prudence and caution with spending.  Before pointing a finger at the pink dome, before storming the gates, school districts need to make sure their own financial stewardship is above board.  And here is the most liberal-leaning newspaper in the state of Texas telling Austin ISD to do exactly that.

Every school administrator should take notes (and while we’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt for more in the fourth estate to echo these sentiments either).

There is plenty more to love in this editorial.  Making clear that the city, the health district, the county, the school districts are all responsible for an unwieldy tax burden sounds so familiar, but not from those pages.  And this line:  “Solutions for managing costs start with telling the public the truth about their taxes.”

Of course, Empower Texans has been saying this or something like it all along.  That right there is one of the founding principles of the tea party movement.  Shocking, I know.

We need more truth-in-government, and we need more investigation to pull back the curtain on taxation.  A little sunlight never hurt anyone.  Clearly, while it may have been painful to admit, the Statesman agrees.


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