For the first time since 2015, Magnolia ISD will have a contested election for their school board. Three incumbents defending the status quo of bigger government and more spending are up for re-election, and all three face challengers promising reform.
For Position 1, incumbent Kelly McDonald is being challenged by Angie Nichols Smith. For Position 2, incumbent Sonja Ebel will face challenger Adrian Kaiser. Sean Ricker is running against board president Gary Blizzard for Position 3.
The key point of contention in the election is the current board’s deference to the superintendent, Todd Stephens, to whom they have gifted a hefty $238,000 annual salary. The board usually votes lockstep for what the superintendent tells them to do. “Our job is not to run the schools,” Blizzard said at a recent forum, explaining that the board should serve a more advisory role to the administration.
Ricker disagrees, “Do you want to vote for someone who works for you, or do you want to vote for someone who works for the superintendent?”
Another issue dividing the candidates is the tax rate. While the district lowered the tax rate in both 2014 and 2015, they have kept the rate the same since then, at $1.3795 per $100 valuation. Because property tax bills are the appraised value times the property tax rate, taxes have significantly increased for the taxpayers because appraised values have skyrocketed while the property tax rate hasn’t been lowered enough to offset those increases.
“The tax rate remains the same, but the appraisals keep rising; therefore we’re still paying more because your property is worth more,” Kaiser pointed out. He also advocates for the tax rate being lowered each year to offset appraisal growth.
Magnolia remains one of the last holdouts for Montgomery County’s receding political establishment. However, there are signs that the grip of the “good ol’ boys” there could be slipping as it already has countywide. In 2018, MISD voters shot down a tax hike proposed by the board in a tax ratification election.
The challengers are hoping to build on that grassroots victory.
Early voting runs from April 22-29. Election Day is May 4.