A recent committee recommendation to the Texas City Independent School District school board to issue a $136 million bond has been accepted by the board and will appear on the ballot in May.

How did we get here, let’s take a look. First, Texas City historically has been considered a property rich district with heavy industry providing plenty of property taxes for education uses. However, since the inception of Robin Hood, the school district has sent $15 million dollars, give or take, to the state coffers annually from 1993 until the present time. This puts the loss of local school funding in the neighborhood of $375 million dollars from 1993 until 2018.

Ever since then, the district has struggled in one way or another to make ends meet. So much so that in 2007 they floated a bond around $126 million for new schools and upgrades. This bond, however, will not be paid off until some time around 2030.

Now it was advised for the local committee at that time, along with their state representatives to go to the state and petition for a moratorium on the Robin Hood tax for 10 years thus allowing the district to build new facilities without the additional burden of a bond. Essentially preventing them from paying twice for the same schools, but no effort was made that we know of.

Now the state of Texas has in their wisdom forced the district to take over the La Marque school district and their dilapidated schools, debt burden and with minimal help from the state. The needs of La Marque and now the Texas City school districts have been compounded by the recent Hurricane Harvey only making matters worse.

So much so that a new bond in the amount of $136 million dollars will be voted on this coming May. And from the previous bond we can only assume this new bond — if passed — will not be paid off until around 2050 or later.

The question is, will the district make a formal request to be relieved of the Robin Hood tax burden and hopefully reduce the need for such a major bond request or possibly eliminating it altogether? What help will our state representatives give the district in this process? Is it fair to ask the citizens of Texas City, who will bare the brunt of the payment burden, to pay for three new schools while only receiving upgrades to one of theirs? Has the district done everything to reduce costs such as eliminating double sports programs such as football, basketball, baseball, etc.? Monies which could be used for teacher pay raises I would think.

The bottom line is the citizenry should most definitely vote no to a new bond if the state doesn’t help to reduce such or eliminate the need altogether.

2050 is a long way off and the question begs to be answered, will the district not need any additional moneys before then?

Bruce Luerson lives in La Marque.

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(4) comments

David Smith

Lamarque.finally achieved their goal of 40 + - years

Mark Ciavaglia

My friend Bruce Luerson, a person for whom I have much respect, expresses some of the same frustration that many folks feel these days. That frustration (and for some, outright anger) should rightly be directed at the State of Texas. In an overall view of the status of funding for public education in Texas, the Legislature continues to shirk its constitutional duty to adequately fund public education. While the subject of just how much is 'adequate' can be a topic of disagreement among reasonable minds, the Legislature continues to place an ever increasing number of requirements on school districts, while funding formulas continue to be cut.

As for TCISD, our district has indeed been proactive in pressing the state for changes to the funding system. TCISD was one of a number of districts which sued the state over this very issue. The Texas Supreme Court eventually ruled that the state's method of funding was constitutional, albeit barely. The Court's opinion was by no means a ringing endorsement of the status quo but, in the terminology of education - the Legislature just barely passed. I traveled to Austin this past session in my individual capacity to testify before the Senate Finance Committee on a bill which would have cut further funding to districts across the state (not just property rich districts). TCISD and other districts across the state will continue to work on this issue, but the Legislature has shown little interest in making any changes. In truth, the number of districts in Texas receiving funding far outweighs the number of districts paying. Plus, that money all flows through Austin, which gives lawmakers one of the more coveted elements in our times - control.

With respect to the TCISD bond proposal before the voters in May, a group of over 70 community members met over a period of months to assess the district's facilities and needs. The result is the proposal unanimously approved by the board which will be put before the voters. If approved, the bond would replace four campuses in our district, each of which are over 60 years old. Additionally, since facilities were damaged during Harvey, hundreds of students are being educated in temporary buildings. The community-based committee believes this is hardly a prudent use of district resources and is certainly not a long term solution.

I would respectfully ask you to reconsider your comment that "the citizens of Texas City will bear the brunt of the payment burden, to pay for three new schools while only receiving upgrades to one of theirs". While we can certainly re-trace the route that brought us together, I hardly think it's productive. The fact is - we are one school district and TEA has indicated that will not change. The schools sought to be replaced are OUR schools, in OUR district. The only way for our district to reach new goals is for us to forge ahead as one community. I would also respectfully point out that residents of the former LMISD are now paying for schools built in the 2007 bond election, as their tax bills include the bond indebtedness for those new schools.

Bruce, I respect you and I respect your opinion. I must, however, respectfully disagree. I can't punish the next generations of students in our district because the State of Texas has failed us. I'd like to see your ire and anger directed at Austin, where it is indeed deserved. The best governance always occurs at the grass roots level and I believe this is a great example. These are some of the reasons that I will vote for the bond election and will be working hard to educate the community and ask for its support. I hope after some careful thought, you will reconsider and join me.

I hope to see you sometime soon to catch up, I hope all is well with you and yours.

Best regards,
Mark E. Ciavaglia

Gary Scoggin

Well said, Mark.

What have Mssrs. Middleton and Faircloth said about the legislation you testified about. Do they pledge to fight for more school funding or to side with those who wish to see our schools wither on the vine? Perhaps the good folks at the GDN could ask them.

Jose' Boix

In total agreement with the sentiments of Mark Ciavaglia. We all must support the best for all our students; we are now a larger family of students, and as such we must band together to do what is right. Thanks Mark for your facts and rational arguments. As one of the members of the Citizen's Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC), I also ask everyone for their support voting to approve the TCISD Bond proposal. Thank you!

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