Reader questions LISD spending plan
To the Editor:
I am writing in sincere hopes that you will publish my concerns regarding the upcoming bond election to fund proposed improvements to Lockhart ISD facilities.
I do not wish to try to make a case for or against the improvements that school district officials have determined are necessary. My concern lies solely on how our officials are proposing to pay for this project. It appears that funding for this bond election heavily falls on the residents. Because Lockhart lacks a strong commercial base, my hunch is that we (the residential property owners) are inadvertently carrying a huge burden. As I write this letter, I am awaiting on receipt of data from the Caldwell CAD which will either confirm or disprove my take on this matter.
I have done some preliminary research from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts website and would like to share this information with the community. In comparison with surrounding communities, Lockhart’s current total tax rate is already among the highest (as the city, ISD and county rates are typically the biggest factors, my comparison is limited to include only those three rates.
Shouldn’t we be concerned about what little we get in return for our high tax rate in comparison to what surrounding community residents receive in return for their lower tax rate? I know we all want beautiful facilities for our kids, but the bills have to be paid. Before we go out and buy a new car, we carefully consider how much the monthly payment is going to eat into our other living expenses. What steps have our school board officials done to mitigate our costs? How long will it take to pay off this $64 million project? Once it’s paid off, will our taxes decrease by the same amount (percentage) that they are increased? Or, is this a debt that never goes away? My understanding is that we still haven’t paid off our debt from the 2002 school bond election. Per the LISD Financial Statement (as of Aug. 31, 2011) contained in LISD’s Outstanding Debt, As of FY 2013 Report, the Net Debt Total was $25,705,715. Can the school district’s CFO give us lay people a simple synopsis? When the taxpayers vote on this school bond in May, I hope they’ve been given all facts. We definitely want beautiful schools, but we need to take a real hard look at the monthly bill… a bill, that if not paid will indubitably result in the confiscation of our homes.
Are Commissioners doing their jobs?
To the Editor:
I was very pleasantly surprised at the meeting of the commissioners on Monday when we all stood and resided the Pledge of Allegiance to the US of America.
I was beginning to think that I was the only one that placed any value in it or the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
But I was very disappointed at the end, when the commissioners decided to table any further proceedings or discussions indefinitely. If they can’t devote more than a couple of hours to such an important job, they shouldn’t be there.
And the response from one of them when I mentioned that, “You can’t solve a problem by kicking the can down the road” was, “Be glad I’m not kicking your xxx down the road.”
So what’s going on with our commissioners? Do they all have more important businesses to attend to? Or do they work on county business only if and when they want to? What’s the deal?
Resident urges caution regarding Host Agreement
To the Editor:
Whether you’re for or against the proposed landfill, there is no urgency in negotiating a Host Agreement with Green Group Holdings (GGH). According to GGH, it is not required to have a Host Agreement and doesn’t need local approval for a landfill. With a financial responsibility to its owners, why has GGH offered a Host Agreement that makes voluntary financial gifts to the community? GGH is making these offerings in exchange for some valuable things. GGH knows a landfill with a Host Agreement is worth much more than one without. It would make a big difference when trying to sell the landfill.
Looking closer we begin to see why GGH is working hard to get a Host Agreement. A Host Agreement would tie up local government for generations. It would put GGH in the drivers seat when any future landfill issues affect our community. If citizens have complaints or lawsuits against GGH, it would force local government to side with GGH. A Host Agreement creates an addiction to GGH’s financial gifts and would be used by GGH to have its way with the County. For the life of the landfill, the Host Agreement binds the County to support GGH’s future plans, permit modifications or amendments, no matter what they may be. The County would not be able to enact ordinances that restrict the landfill. The County would not be able to levy special taxes and fines on the landfill.
All of these benefits to GGH are just as valuable, even more valuable, as their project progresses over the years. That is why GGH will not likely set a deadline for a Host Agreement. If a deadline should be set and it passes, another deadline will soon follow. GGH will always be interested in a host agreement, even if it is after accepting their first load of trash.
In seeking the best for our County, there is no urgency in negotiating and approving a Host Agreement. Remember GGH says the Host Agreement is not required and local government has no say in approving the landfill, in essence saying the County has no negotiating power. What the County would end up “negotiating” is citizen arguments over fire trucks versus library support versus science labs, nothing to do with improving the overall value of the agreement to the County.
Studies have shown three things increase the value of a Host Agreement to a community:
1. Higher public resistance to the landfill
2. Larger size of landfill owner
3. A government requirement for a Host Agreement
Caldwell County is faced with a very small player (less than 1 percent) in the landfill business, and no government requirement for a Host Agreement. Thank goodness our County Commissioners are using a healthy dose of skepticism as they study all aspects of this sneaky intrusion into our County. As for public resistance – more would be better.