Midland ISD ready to propose tripling its debt, buckle your seatbelts, taxpayers!

February 29, 2012

The national debt isn’t the only burden big government is placing on young Americans. While the nation’s eyes are focused on the federal debt clock looming toward $16 trillion, local governments are accumulating massive debt as well.

Few people are following local government debt which has hit $1.785 trillion nationwide. Across the country, local debt is larger than all local revenue and that’s not counting the interest payments.

Texas is second in the country in local debt, behind only California.

According to the Texas Bond Review Board, local governments in Texas are $192.7 billion in debt, and a whopping $322.3 billion when interest is added.

We are leaving our children and grandchildren a legacy of debt. That is not the legacy most of us want to leave future generations.

The Texas Bond Review Board quantifies the current debt load and in recent years, the interest payments to provide greater transparency so taxpayers can see the total amount owed.

While some debt is self-supporting, much debt is not. It relies on future taxes.

Two main problems we must fix are causing our state’s debt to soar, decreasing our prosperity.

Local officials need an injection of common sense. Spending is not the way to prosperity. It is time government tighten its belt just like families do every month. This is critical if we want our children and grandchildren to have a more stable and secure future.

The second issue that must be addressed is that much of the local debt is taxpayer approved. Local officials sell initiatives as absolutely necessary, touting them “for the children” when in fact; these initiatives are misguided and wasteful. Texas taxpayers deserve better.

It may be a municipal swimming pool, a state-of-the-art stadium, or a Taj Mahal school facility in their community. The trick is in the salesmanship. Local governments often claim the cost to be just a few pennies here, a few dollars there.

Those pennies add up to dollars, and we’ve built ourselves a monster of a debt, one dollar at a time. Texas’ local debt totals are headed in the wrong direction. Texas ranked third among the most populous states in per-capital local government in 2008 before taking our current dubious second place standing.

In the final analysis, it is our children who are being left holding the bag. Our children are inheriting debt for projects they will never see the benefit of. Simply put, this is inexcusable.

We need look no further than Midland Independent School District (MISD) which has a current debt load over $184 million ($117m in principle and $68 million in interest) but the Superintendent wants yet another bond initiative…for a whopping $158 million. When interest is added, the debt will likely be tripled!

Superintendent Ryan Warren is quoted in the Midland Reporter-Telegram as saying, “I got really fired up the first semester and in my opinion, looking at the needs of our children, I wanted a May 2012 election,” Warren told the board.
However, after talking with community groups, Warren said he realized the community will have to be “extensively educated” and it cannot be accomplished by May.

That extensive education which the superintendent referred to is an example of education dollars at work outside the classroom, yet another waste of taxpayer dollars ISD’s even employ public affairs staff who are trained on how to pass more and more bond initiatives.

But he has another ally in local Pastor Patrick Payton. Pastor Payton heads the largest church in the area – Stonegate Fellowship. He spoke at a recent school board meeting and was filmed by CBS 7 News saying he proposed a “controlled rebellion” and “if it means breaking the rules and getting in trouble, let’s break rules and get in trouble.”

If a pastor says this in an open meeting with the cameras rolling, one might wonder just what he is saying behind closed doors. He has also been quoted in the local newspaper as saying that it is “none of the public’s business” who sent a survey postcard sent to Midland homes, but that the results of the survey would be helpful to them in pushing a bond initiative.

Aside from the tactics which might be used, this trend is troubling as today’s debt becomes tomorrow’s tax burden, a burden our children and grandchildren will inherit. I believe Texas taxpayers deserve better and we must stop mortgaging our children’s future.

As taxpayers, we must be educated about the countless initiatives we’re asked to pay for and our local officials must start to take responsibility for their decisions. To avoid a future full of debt, we need to restore fiscal restraint, efficiency, and planning. If we do not take steps to reduce the debt, we will be denying our children and grandchildren the opportunity to pursue the American dream.

Posted by Peggy Venable

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