Wednesday , 16 August 2017

Letter to the Editor: Tax Ratification Election Shouldn’t Have Been Approved

opinionVarious individuals, including school board staff, have wailed loudly about how they can’t live without $12 million more from McKinney taxpayers (of course, the new tax rate will generate more what they need, $10.7 million) — but hey, trust us, we we will put the excess in the rainy day fund …. at least until we can spend it.)
The implication is that anyone who is opposed to handing our school district a blank check is somehow against our kids, motherhood, apple pie and the American way. Nothing is further from the truth. If we need the funds and the District can spend them in a financially reasonable manner, then we will support the taxes.  We support many District expenses – but this does not require taxing every household in McKinney by an average of $325 more per year for a $250,000 house, which will increase each and every year thereafter as house assessments rise.
 
Unfortunately, the district is not exercising its mandated fiduciary responsibility.  To borrow from another quote, politicians/bureaucrats (our MISD) will spend every dime they can until they run out of other people’s money (in this case our money). I have no doubt that they could spend every cent they can snatch out of McKinney citizens’ pockets.
 
The real purpose of this is to get more state funds. MISD is taking $12 million out of citizens’ pockets (with an attendant harm to the local economy and to house values) in order to collect $1.7 million in additional state funds. With enrollment going down and predicted to continue decreasing or holding steady (by their own study), the student/teacher ratio will only be lower next year and MISD won’t look as needy, making it harder to get a tax increase through. 
 
Even with a loss last year of 350 students and a probable no gain or minimal gain this year (based on past projecting efforts, around 150 new students), the District chose to add 51 new employees, including 36 new teachers. To put this in context, that is 1 new teacher for every 4,2 new students.  The student/teacher ratio for McKinney was 14.4 prior to this latest addition.  In the state of Texas, the ratio is 14.7, which makes MISD about 35 teachers better than the state average already. This added $2.7 million (MISD figure) to the “budget shortfall.”  Necessary? Surely there were alternatives with the current teachers.
 
MISD is so overstaffed as to be highly ironic. It takes 1 administrator to support every 1.8 teachers. That sounds terrible, but a few years ago, they moved the cafeteria employees and the custodial staff to contract services. Those employees used to count in the ratio – they do not anymore. Think what the ratio would be with those employees added back in!  The 1,654 teachers are “supported” by 911 administrative employees. MISD could decrease the support by 84 employees and still stay at 1:2.0, saving around $6 million.    
 
(Note- already saved $8.7 million of the $10.7 million shortfall, and haven’t even gotten started yet.)  
 
But that won’t happen.  Support personnel are a protected species. From 2011 until 2013, the District made a great show of cuts. Teachers were decreased by 94 teachers, saving $823,000. Sounds good for saving and meeting the fiscal mandate. During the same period, non-teachers were reduced by 36, but the salaries went UP by $2.1 million. This is the major problem for the District – way too top-heavy. The military called this the tooth-to-tail ratio, measuring the amount of resources brought to bear on the immediate goal (combat for the military, teaching for us) compared to the amount of “tail” support required to get the “teeth” into the target. By any measure, this performance is abysmal. 
 
You should ask how MISD is performing financially compared to other ISDs. If everyone else is better, than perhaps McKinney needs to work on “doing things better” not “doing more things.”  According to TEA, there are 1,227 ISDs in Texas, of all sizes. Of this number, seven are currently paying the maximum in operating taxes and the debt servicing taxes – a total of $1.67 per $100 of valuation. MISD will become the 8th member of this profligate group. It includes, of course, Allen ISD of the $60 million football stadium. 
 
Remember also the other half of the expenditures – servicing the debt. McKinney currently owes $447.5 million in debt, which will require spending $642 million when interest is included. We cannot ignore this since our children will be paying this off for many years.
 
The problem as we see it is that this a fluff budget, designed to inflate the expenses to justify a tax increase which will then allow the District to harvest another $1.7 million from the state.  This is the last favorable time for several years to do this. We support a great school district and a pay raise for teachers, all of which can be attained without this excessive tax rate increase.
 
We will certainly be voting NO on this extravagant tax increase and would encourage all citizens of McKinney to investigate all aspects of the tax increase. This will lead you to joining us and sending this back to the school district to rework things.
Submitted by Mike Giles

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