Wot happened? ....... No one was more
surprised than I about the failure of the school bond referendum.
I had previously decided that FBISD voters would okay a billion
dollars if asked. After all, we all know that our district is
growing and needs new schools, plus FBISD is the largest employer
in Fort Bend and expects its employees to vote for any bond
But this time I think Fort Bend ISD misjudged
the concern voters feel about the economy, the fact that so many
have experienced the wiping out of their retirement accounts, and
the fact that we all had just received notices from our mortgage
companies that our house payments were going to be increased
substantially due to increased valuations of our property. Our
elected officials make a big deal every year almost breaking their
arms patting themselves on the back about the fact that they
havenít increased the taxes, but yet I guess you notice that your
taxes still increase. Not only should our elected officials avoid
increasing taxes, they need to DECREASE them. But they are so
accustomed to gorging themselves on increased valuations which
yield them much more money each year without them having to face
the wrath of the voting public.
Another reason I think the bond issue failed is
that it did not include very many buildings for our money
(seven-accounting for almost half the total of the approximately
$400 million bonds). Much of the money would have been used to
redo older buildings ($64 million-two elementaries and a junior
high) and buy technology for the schools (another $42 million).
There was some concern expressed by the forces against the bonds
that $64 million could build NEW elementaries and a junior high.
$58 million was earmarked for campus maintenance and $12 million
for school buses. Opinions were also expressed that if the
district built schools close to the students that it would not be
necessary to buy so many buses. And another concern expressed
during the debate about the bond issue was the economy of scale
which exists with larger schools. FBISD builds many smaller
schools, rather than a few large ones.
I hope that FBISD administration and board
members take the failure of the bond issue as a lesson from
taxpayers that they no longer want to spend so much money on
bricks and mortar (which doesnít add to the learning process of
the student), that a rein should be exercised on the architects
that design the buildings with so many extras and fancy built-in
cabinets that drive up the price, and hence their fees.
Fort Bend does not have to look far to see an
example of its own misguided building program in its neighbors to
the west, Lamar CISD, which has almost bankrupted the entire
district because it went out on Hwy. 723 and built this huge,
fancy school facility which the district couldnít afford. But
Lamar did one thing right that FBISD should emulate. FBISD, like
Lamar, should have a bond election where voters can vote on the
stuff they want to fund, like a "line item" referendum where
voters can check "buildings" or "computers," or "buses," or
everything. That way at least the money for buildings would
probably not be voted down, unless the district tries to pay $200
million for only seven buildings.
I wonder if our administration and board
members think that by building grandiose buildings, they can and
we will overlook the fact that FBISD is a mediocre school district
where its "patronís," (sorry, Jon) are not getting their moneyís
School district trustee Naomi Lamís ultimate
public disapproval of the bond referendum no doubt gave voters an
excuse and impetus to vote against something they didnít like
anyway. Lamís excuse for coming out against the bonds after first
voting for them as a board member was explained to me thusly: Lam
said as a board member she voted to submit the bonds to the VOTERS
for their approval; she did not vote to approve the bonds.
It must be election time ...... One of the
sure signs that election season is approaching is that politicians
suddenly want to become full-time community volunteers in an
effort to get their names in the newspaper and before the public.
We certainly support volunteerism. In fact, we award a volunteer
of the week each and every week in this newspaper. We especially
applaud those who do unpaid work for the community with little or
However, we are certainly amused that Sheriff
Milton Wright is doing everything he can to keep from going to the
office. It seems that the Sheriff has put his name on every
volunteer effort in town. Thatís nice, except that his priorities
are skewed. While the Sheriff is out volunteering, his department
is being run by a Napoleonic, foul-mouthed, paranoid control-freak
with the managerial skills of the average chimp. Morale in the
department is at an all-time low as Mini-Milton stalks so-called
"leaks" to the media by deputies.
And speaking of volunteerism ..... We are
accepting nominations for our "Sterling Star" award that we give
weekly to a member of a local community service organization. Itís
simple to nominate someone. You can either e-mail us the
information about your nominee along with a photo, or call our
office and we will fax you a form, 499-5600.
Coming full circle ...... I was so glad to get
a press release from Russell Jones that he is running for the city
council from Sugar Land. Shortly after I first started in the
newspaper business in Fort Bend, Russell was on the city council
in Missouri City where he was a real class act. He has since moved
to Sugar Land and a couple of times has volunteered to serve
unexpired terms. Now heís running for a full term. Russell and his
wife Thelma are both local attorneys specializing in corporate law
who have always participated in community life in Fort Bend.
Theyíre good people and Russell apparently has a lot of backing
and support for the job.