San Antonio, Amarillo, Round Rock facing tax and debt on ballots, election issues

Officials in San Antonio and Amarillo who are seeking to increase taxes and debt are being met with fierce opposition from voters impacted by loss of work and income because of the governor’s ongoing executive orders.

The San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) School Board has approved a $1.3 billion bond measure to be added to the November ballot, described by the San Antonio Express as “the largest school or municipal bond proposition in San Antonio history.”

If approved, the bond would allocate $1.21 billion for school renovations and $90 million for technology improvements.

“This marks the third time in 10 years that SAISD officials will ask voters to approve more debt,” James Quintero, Texas Public Policy Foundation’s director for Government for the People campaign, said. “In 2010, the district approached voters with a $515 million bond and it was back again in 2016 with a $450 million bond.”

Voters approved both.

According to a state comptroller’s office analysis, of 10 similarly sized districts, SAISD’s tax-supported outstanding debt is the fourth highest in total ($894,329,988) and the third highest per capita ($17,646 owed per student).

The proposed amounts still aren’t enough, San Antonio ISD Superintendent Dr. Pedro Martinez told KENS5 News.

“There’s been a lot of development in our community, so our tax base has risen and now we have the ability if the voters approve to be able to make necessary renovations at our schools,” Martinez said. “Our total need in the district is about $2.5 billion. This is only addressing half of it.”

Quintero disagreed.

“The bad news is that school districts continue to spend like drunken sailors,” he said. “San Antonio ISD’s billion-dollar bond package is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Martinez said the bond won’t increase tax rates, but property tax bills have increased and continue to increase. Because of a new law passed by the state legislature, Texas ISDs are required to include on the bond election notice the statement, “THIS IS A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE.”

Despite this notice, “tax rates will not be affected by either of the ballot questions, but what’s going to be confusing is by law in the ballot question, the words will say this a tax increase even though it’s not going to be,” Martinez told KENS 5 News.

In Amarillo, city council members approved for the ballot $275 million worth of bond measures to renovate the downtown area, voted to extend their terms by two years, and cut their meeting calendar in half.

A group of Amarillo residents, called, Save Amarillo, and young residents in a new political group, Youth for an Accountable Amarillo, have organized a campaign to defeat the city council members and their proposals.

“The current plan for the civic center put forth by the city council fails to address future needs, and the projected costs will create a ridiculous tax burden on the citizens,” Save Amarillo’s chairman Len Walker said.

In Round Rock, city council officials tried to give themselves another year in office after attempting to move the November election to summer 2021.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that by seeking to postpone the election, they “effectively allow[ed] [the city’s] elected officials whose terms would have expired in May 2020 to continue to hold office for another full year.

“The city lacks legal authority to move elections validly set for November 3, 2020, to May 2021,” the attorney general wrote in a letter to the council. “Holding an improper election can produce severe consequences.

“If an election is held on the wrong date, the election is void. If the city decides not to hold its election in November, the city may be subject to civil litigation,” Paxton added. “In addition, violating the city’s charter, such as by not calling an election in accordance with the law, may be grounds for a forfeiture of office. Finally, an unlawful officeholder may be removed from office through a quo warranto action.”



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