Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Katy ISD: Got Debt?

There are many issues that we encounter and deal with as a community on a local, city, state, and a national level.  Some are more controversial than others, obviously.  There is one issue that can tear apart an education community or school district faster than any of these other issues; a school bond proposal.  Want to make it even more divisive?  Throw in a new football stadium proposal in the bond proposal.  Look. Out.

The Katy ISD bond is no different.  And sadly, it's a statewide epidemic.

However, even the folks that support the bond are coming up short on their logic, seemingly failing to consider what the passage of this bond would do to the local and state economies.  The debt of Texas' cities is comparable to California's cities, even to that of bankrupt Detroit.  Even Breitbart has picked up on it in this article titled, Texas Cities Should Learn from Bankrupt, Spendthrift Detroit.  Jess Fields said, "Texans must work to ensure that our localities do not rack up enormous debt and waste money on pet projects we cannot afford. Taxpayers should demand that local governments spend money on priorities, like good public safety and sound infrastructure."

On the other side, the Katy LiberTea group led the fight in 2013 and helped defeat an earlier bond.  Their desire to see the bond voted down is no different this time around.  Cyndi Lawrence, president of Katy LiberTea has this to say about the state of affairs in the Katy Independent School District: "We acknowledge the fact that Katy ISD is a highly desired community. We need to look at a package that addresses classroom space for our kids and that is fiscally responsible. This community has expanded so much because it is a great area to live, but we want it to remain that way. We do not want our community to be in such a large amount of debt.  This bond reminds me of Bills that come through the U.S. House, the INTENTION is always good, but somehow tons of pork gets added and then the intention of the Bill ends up lost.  We need to be more transparent and fiscally responsible when preparing a bond.  There has been way to much “fluff” money added to this current bond package. This bond should only be addressing growth while respecting the community’s hard earned tax payer dollars. According to debt at a glance, for school districts of similar size in Texas, Katy ISD ranks the 5th highest in debt with the amount of $1,234,844,928.  The cost per student is $19,172."

Cyndi continues: "The community has already voted down the 2013 $99,000,000 bond because most felt like the school district was proposing to spend too much money on things that are not necessities. Here we are a year later, and not only did they NOT listen to the community’s concerns, but they added 700 MILLION more dollars to the bond and MORE “fluff.” This is not representative of what the community wants and what is best for our children. They need to consider our concerns and address the growth needs in a fiscally responsible manner. Our community and our children will be paying this debt off for years to come."

Most people think that conservative groups are always railing against any sort of bond referendum or proposal.  That's simply not true!  To back that up, I thought it would be interesting  to include some quotes from some folks who would like to remain anonymous.  The first person comments concerning the stadium that has been injected into the bond:
"Why is the stadium being forced into a bond that is primarily for education and facilities pertaining to education? Why is it not on its own ticket?"
"The stadium did not make the vote last year and there has been a whole year to prepare for a better solution. Why has Katy ISD not researched and secured corporate sponsors, stadium naming rights, and etc… They could sell seat options, raise ticket prices, and paid parking. There are many ways that this could have been sold to the voters without shoving it down our throats in a bond that includes mass much needed educational components. That's just dirty and unethical no matter what side your on."
"Sometimes you have to pay to play!"
Some people are not even talking about the stadium.  Here's one taxpayer who is concerned about whether or not Katy ISD already has the money on hand to spend without passing the bond: 
"On the KISD Bond issue, I have a house that last year was valued at $92,500 - KISD taxes $1415. This year the same house value was upped to $149,000 - KISD taxes $2279. This appears to me to be a little more than $10-$20 per year. And it's a rental with no exemptions. So, if my KISD taxes are going up $864 per year, I guess that I am accounting for the $10 increase for 86 houses. They should not need any bonds approved inasmuch as the increase in valuations more than makes up for the bonds they want to issue."
Here's more from another concerned citizen about the tax rate:
"KISD tax rate is 1.5266% (1.1266 M&O and 0.400 I&S). This is before the planned tax rate increase in the proposed bond. This current rate is already higher than over 93% of all other school districts in TX and even higher than CFISD. Not sure how that is possible with the behemoth of a Berry Center cost already included in CFISD M&O and I&S rates. Good news is it is still lower than Allen ISD but they already have their 60MM stadium. Well it's really even more than the 60MM when you add the costs they are currently incurring to repair all the cracked concrete in it."

Unfortunately, as is always the case with school bond debates, those presenting rationale, financial reasons to oppose the bond will be labeled “anti-children.” 
These are real concerns from real people.  They are legitimate concerns, too.  None that can just be explained away by the pro-bond side as 'ignorant' or uneducated.  If you live in Katy ISD, please consider a 'no' vote on this bond.  It's time that we stop loving our children to debt. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Politics and Christianity: Can the Two Work Together?

Let me ask you your opinion on something: should Christians be involved in politics?  Moreover, should Christians vote?  There are all kinds of ethnic and religious groups involved in politics, but what about Christians?  Well, I'm a Christian and I see nothing wrong with it.  I've heard other opinions about whether Christians should be involved, often to the contrary.  I have to wonder though, what would those who disagree suggest that we do?

I personally feel that we are co-workers with Christ.  For example, if you need a job, you can certainly pray for a job, yes?  However, you need to submit resumes and make phone calls in order to obtain a job.  You need to put forth some effort on your part.  You can trust that God will help guide you to find the job that's right for you, but YOU have to do something in order to get the job.  Here's a little something that the Bible says about work: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…” Colossians 3:23

How about all the people that God used throughout the Bible to accomplish His work?  How about David and Goliath, one of my favorite stories.  What if David hadn't stepped up to defeat Goliath?  In that same vein, what if conservatives had stayed home and decided NOT to help elect Ted Cruz to win the U.S. Senate nomination against David Dewhurst?  I. Can't. Even.

Christians are involved and have been for a while in the pro-life movement.  I would have to say that there are definitely 'politics' involved there; shaping legislation and staging protests.  So, should Christians stop standing up for life?  Something else that Christians generally stand for is traditional marriage; marriage between one man and one woman. Let us not forget that often times, these are convictions the people feel in their heart that they should fight for.  So, should Christians then also stop standing up for traditional marriage? 

I don't feel that being a co-worker with God to find a job is any different than being a co-worker with God for influencing legislation or attempting to maintain our freedoms.  I can even use another example of a group headed up by a person who listened to the Lord direct his career path and how God has blessed him with many successes.  Ever heard of Liberty Institute?  A man by the name of Kelly Shackelford is the president and CEO of Liberty Institute.  They are a Christian ministry dedicated to providing legal assistance to those being discriminated against when it comes to their first amendment rights and the ability to freely express their faith.

From their website, "In 1972, Liberty Institute began as a small advocacy organization under a different name and advanced the cause of liberty, including religious liberty. In 1997, we added our legal division, once known as Liberty Legal Institute, and Kelly Shackelford became President and CEO. In 2009, we brought our policy and legal division together under one name—Liberty Institute.What began nearly 40 years ago has grown into an influential non-profit law firm, dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America. Liberty Institute is now the largest legal organization in America dedicated solely to defending and preserving religious liberty in America, with clients, attorneys, and donors all across the nation."  If you want to read more about this amazing organization, click on the link here.

To further drive home my point, I looked at the U.S. Pastors Council Website where they have an outline listed for a project called, "Every Christian Votes".  Here are some stats that are somewhat disturbing:
Every American Christian who is eligible to vote does so:
a) By one’s absence; Failing to vote and allowing elected officials to be chosen by those who do not share the same values,
b) Thoughtlessly; By voting out of ignorance, self-serving motivation, etc., or
c) By becoming informed; Studying candidates’ positions on key issues, praying and casting a knowledgeable vote for candidates who most closely conform to Biblical standards of character and on the vital issues of the day.

Here comes the disturbing part:
Most pastors would agree that options A and B are poor stewardship and have led to ungodly, unjust and corrupt leaders being chosen, resulting in unrighteous government. 
It is still an accepted statistic that less than one out of three churchgoing citizens vote in each election, a fact of which we should be ashamed.

Now, don't get me wrong, there has to be a balance of things.  We shouldn't put politics or political involvement before God and our faith.  Prayerfully considered political action is certainly acceptable, because if there's ever been a time for Christian influence needed in the halls of D.C., the Texas Capitol and our local municipalities, it's definitely NOW.  Don't hold back on letting your voices be heard.