A North Texas school district’s citizen bond committee recently revealed a state law that may surprise you: local governments aren’t allowed to consider cost when choosing contractors for their taxpayer-funded projects.
Recently, voters in Keller Independent School District approved a $315 million bond, increasing district taxpayer debt to $1.4 billion, or almost $40,000 per student.
Almost half of the bond will go towards rebuilding four elementary school buildings that will accommodate roughly the same class size as the current facilities. Over $43 million will go to renovations and additions to existing schools, and over $70 million will go to “indoor extra-curricular facilities at high schools” and a new “science center.”
Yet despite throwing around that kind of money, the school district is outlawed from thoroughly analyzing how best to spend it.
Keller ISD’s Citizens Bond Committee met last week to discuss the coming building projects. During the meeting, committee member and City of Keller mayoral candidate Armin Mizani asked for and received confirmation that Texas law forbids cost from being considered when deciding which vendors will be picked for bond projects.
Title 10, Sec. 2254.003 (a) of the Texas State Code states:
“A governmental entity may not select a provider of professional services or a group or association of providers or award a contract for the services on the basis of competitive bids submitted for the contract or for the services, but shall make the selection and award:
(1) on the basis of demonstrated competence and qualifications to perform the services; and
(2) for a fair and reasonable price.
(b) The professional fees under the contract may not exceed any maximum provided by law.”
In short, bond counsel fees are capped, and governments are not allowed to consider competitive offers for a project.
This law, added in 1993 and amended in 2007, is the basis for much of Texas school districts’ corruption, encouraging the creation of massive debt packages without much heed to where the money is spent. This only encourages situations like the one in Keller ISD, where construction and engineering companies commonly get involved in bond campaigns—often pouring in money to support bonds to then receive lucrative contracts when the bonds pass.
All debt hikes are tax hikes, and the more debt a local government takes on, the more money that the government will have to take from hardworking taxpayers. This is another part of Texas’ property tax nightmare that lawmakers failed to fix in this year’s legislative session.
If lawmakers change this law, taxpayers can start getting the outrageous $365 billion local government debt in Texas under control. Or, Gov. Greg Abbott could call a special session to address it—along with numerous other issues listed in the current grassroots Lone Star Agenda campaign.