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HISD versus Prop 1

This would be a tough obstacle to overcome.

HISD Board President Greg Meyers on Wednesday raised the specter of teacher layoffs if the school system is forced to pay an estimated $2.5 million to $3.5 million a year in drainage fees under Mayor Annise Parker’s plan to implement the ballot initiative should voters approve it in November.

“There are some high emotions against this measure from several board members,” Meyers said. “I can’t speak for every one of my colleagues, but I do know there are concerns.”

Meyers said the new fee — which he called a tax — would put the Houston Independent School District in a financial pinch.

“While we understand the benefits of reduced flooding, we also have to look at the complete impact that it’s going to have on us educating our kids,” Meyers said. “If you start looking at the impact, about 70 teachers will have to potentially be laid off.”

The cost to the school district represents less than 1 percent of its $1.6 billion operating budget.

“We don’t feel one taxing entity should tax another taxing entity,” Meyers added.

I can understand that argument, but schools are affected by flooding, too. What would HISD do about this if Prop 1 fails? Is doing nothing acceptable to them? That’s what I’d like to know.

As for the claim about “potentially” laying off teachers as a result of this, that sounds like a negotiating tactic designed to force Mayor Parker and Council to reconsider its no-exceptions stance. Indeed, in the end, the HISD board voted unanimously to ask for an exemption on the fee. I generally believe that there’s always a way for a deal to be struck, but I have the feeling that the Mayor is going to hold the line on this, as to do otherwise would open a large can of worms. Which means that attempting to defeat Prop 1 may be HISD’s only recourse. It’s not clear to me what that might mean in practice, but it did draw a sharp response from the Vote For Prop 1 campaign. From their press release:

The Vote FOR Prop 1 Campaign regrets to learn that the Houston Independent School District is taking a position against the best interests of our city, taxpayers, and most importantly our children.

HISD should do a more responsible job of managing taxpayer funds before laying off teachers and opposing a fiscally responsible plan to keep its students safe.

In short, HISD should cut the waste, not the teachers.


The full release is beneath the fold. In the “Timing is everything” department, I note this Hair Balls item:

Several months ago, Houston ISD superintendent Terry Grier delivered dread news to an aghast school board: HISD was short by $37 million (actually it was originally set at $39 million for a couple days) in its bond fund projects money.

Almost immediately, some people well acquainted with the district’s finances engaged in some heavy-duty head scratching. Chief Financial Officer Melinda Garrett couldn’t figure out where this sudden deficit had come from and gave it a tougher look.

Well, today, Grier announced he was “Pleased, but a bit embarrassed to announce that instead of a $37 million shortfall, the district has a $73 million surplus.”

According to Garrett, HISD has historically kept its bond-projects money in three pockets: change orders, so-called “owner’s contingency” or project contingency funds and budgeted reserves and contingency for inflation.

When one person in the bond office decided to review the funding, his ensuing report was “in error” because he didn’t know about all the reserved funds, Garrett said.

[…]

Trustee Anna Eastman warned Grier that the under budget/over budget news means: “We’ve got some work to do to rebuild the trust of the public.” Larry Marshall pressed the point later with Grier, asking if he “got it?”

Grier acknowledged he did.

Oops. Good news, but still: Oops. Martha, who doesn’t care for the Prop 1 attack on the HISD board, has more.

UPDATE: John isn’t happy, either.

UPDATE: Stace disagrees with Martha and John.

Vote FOR Prop 1 Campaign to HISD:

“Cut the Waste, Not the Teachers”


The Vote FOR Prop 1 Campaign regrets to learn that the Houston Independent School District is taking a position against the best interests of our city, taxpayers, and most importantly our children.

HISD should do a more responsible job of managing taxpayer funds before laying off teachers and opposing a fiscally responsible plan to keep its students safe.

In short, HISD should cut the waste, not the teachers.


HISD has been rocked by at least two scandals this year, from lax oversight of more than a billion dollars in bond funds to spending millions on unnecessary overtime.


HISD needs to provide it students with safe passage to schools on safe and dry roads. It needs to make sure parents can pick up their kids from school after a heavy rain. It needs to make sure police and fire have quick access to schools to keep our children safe. 


HISD does NOT need to use its students as a political football when it can do a better job managing its own tax dollars.


Proposition 1 requires the city to end years of wasteful borrowing and convert to a responsible, pay-as-you-go plan to rebuild our crumbling streets and help prevent flooding. It ties the hands of politicians so they cannot use these funds for any other purpose.


The politicians at HISD should take a lesson and get their own fiscal house in order before penalizing our kids.


We urge the Houston Independent School District to reconsider it’s resolution and join thoughtful leaders supporting Proposition 1 like the Houston Chronicle, Mayor Annise Parker, the Greater Houston Partnership, AFL-CIO, LULAC Council #402, Houston Police Officers’ Union, the Neartown/Montrose Super Neighborhood, Scenic Houston, Brays Bayou Association, Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the thousands of other Houstonians who don’t want to worry about high water and reaching their children at school or on school buses whenever the skies open up.

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2 Comments

  1. John Cobarruvias says:

    What would HISD do about this if Prop 1 fails?

    Uh…..do what they have been doing for the last 100 years? They havent complained about flooding.

    Renew Houston issued a real bonehead press release.

  2. […] do about churches and schools is news to me. Would have been nice to know before the election, when HISD was pitching a fit about it, but better late than never. I’ll say again, to me the drainage fee is basically no […]