Texas City public school trustees did the right thing Tuesday by voting to call a $136.1 million bond proposition for voters to consider during a May referendum.
It’s never easy to vote on the side of increasing taxes, which issuing debt through public bonds almost always requires. Standing against taxation no matter how clearly justified it is and how much public good might be achieved by it is the easy part.
This board more than most had some dodges it could have used and might have even made to sound plausible, had it wanted to duck this issue.
Instead, it did right by the larger community. It seems to us that doing so required an understanding of civic responsibility, a commitment to reasonable personal sacrifice in the interest of the greater good, and a belief that public education is among a few things essential to preserving democracy and building prosperous communities.
We commend the board for having the political courage to do the right thing and would encourage district voters to spend the next couple of months becoming informed about the district’s proposal with an inclination toward supporting the proposition come Election Day in May.
The committee of residents from both Texas City and La Marque that worked to create the recommendation the board acted on also deserves commendation for its good work.
We have argued before that the board had little real alternative but to call a bond election after the district, at the state’s behest, annexed La Marque ISD and assumed responsibility for its former students and facilities.
We argued it had an ethical, moral and legal responsibility to make facilities reasonably equal across the new, expanded district. Doing that is going to take money, and raising that money is going to require issuing debt through bonds. That’s just how the world works.
School board President Hal Biery summed up the situation about as well as can be during the board’s meeting Tuesday night.
“There are different bond issues in different districts from time to time,” Biery said. “Sometimes it’s a luxury; you’re OK but you want to get better. This bond issue is not a luxury. This bond issue is a necessity to provide proper facilities for the students and staff.”
We don’t see anything frivolous in the projects proposed for funding with this $136 million.
The bond initiative includes money for four new replacement schools after three aging La Marque campuses were badly damaged during Hurricane Harvey.
A fourth school, Guajardo Elementary School in Texas City, needed costly repairs and other upgrades to meet codes and would be replaced new if the bond were approved, officials said.
The bond also includes three districtwide initiatives to improve safety, repair roofs, increase parking and provide computers to each seventh- to 12th-grade student, according to the district.
Those strike us as nuts-and-bolts projects directly affecting the educational mission of the school district.
If approved, the bond would increase the school district tax rate by about 8 cents per $100 valuation, according to the district.
The increase would mean about $80 more annually in school district property taxes on a home valued at $100,000, according to the district.
That’s not an insignificant amount, but is not too much for most property owners to absorb. The tax rate increase would not affect homeowners who are age 65 and older and have homestead exemptions, officials said.
The Texas City school district and the community at large have a reputation for getting things done in a no-nonsense way, so we have no doubt this public money would be used efficiently and as the voters intended.
On the whole, we support this bond proposition.
• Michael A. Smith