Monday, February 16, 2015


I-dineout has several consecutive months of comments fighting against one local school bond issue or another in Liberty County or the surrounding area. As school district leaders in some districts that face, aging buildings, tight budgets, rapid advancements in technology, and the latest demands for excellence, negative comments by a few can make working to win support from voters a much tougher job than it should be. I have been asked to weigh in on these issues in the past but have declined assuming that since the school I have worked at for over a decade has a relationship to almost every area school, I would be falsely accused of having some bias. (Even though privately my family could tell you at least two school bond elections in Liberty County I was shocked ever even got on the ballot in the form they were presented to the public).

But any good analysis will reveal all districts don’t face the same situations and they are not all asking taxpayers to do the same thing. For those who listen to what Liberty ISD’s bond election is considering, I believe they will find this election one every voter should consider voting “for”. It wilset the stage for 15 to 20 years of great opportunity for our children, our grandchildren, teachers and community by refreshing our two oldest campuses.

If you are a conservative, I am sure you are not for pulling the taxpayer wallet out every time some one wants something new, but you probably don’t look at every school bond issue in terms of “pass” or “fail” either. Some schools like Dayton ISD may have to work extra hard to get a normally supportive community because of the amount of money they are borrowing. Some voters simply vote against spending money on anything. But informed voters that are willing to consider issuing of school bonds may pay close attention to each and every item that is on the list of what the bond is covering and, just as some voters viewed the election in the Dayton ISD bond issue, they may decide the district has extended their “need list” into a very expensive and extensive “want list”. Some of the voters in that election objected to the nearly $100 million rather than the idea of borrowing money to give the school a shot in the arm.  I don’t think anyone could find that in Liberty’s proposal.

Why do I say that? I am banking on two things. Trust and personal knowledge.

First “trust” is important and leadership from top to bottom is working to invite the public to be part of the process. Not only are they saying to come and hear and look and see how you believe after you get first hand information, they are also going out of their way to leave the decision up to as many voters as possibly can be enticed to the polls.
The committee that has endorses issuing these bonds is doing more than selling the community that this is needed, I am certain they will hold town meetings, publish community newsletters, and maybe even develop robust websites in order to get feedback and ultimately to make sure this community legacy is one we are all proud of.
School districts are also up against jaded public opinion, an offshoot of increasingly divisive politics at all levels of government. Unfortunately, public confidence in any publicly-funded institution, including our public schools, erodes more and more with each passing year. I have certainly been an outspoken voice at times that has screamed “hold on to your wallets” and at 57 years old I guess some would expect that of me here,  but I believe the public’s support for the amount of money the committee has recommended and for the needs should be considered favorably as we enter the process.
This is not the federal government in D.C. or the state government is Austin wanting more money from us, this is the “local control” and local decision making some of us believe should be used on many more of the important decisions in our lives.

But pass trusting the leadership, personal knowledge should increase voters to lean toward a “yes’ vote. Personal knowledge, including if you attended school in what is now known as the administration building, should help you realize we need to pass a school bond. Liberty’s maintenance crew and different projects in past years may have it looking like a pretty good building, but with all due respect to the power washing and excellent paints and patches and re-purposing that can be done now days, this building must be closing in on 100 years old. And it was not the greatest design (with its flat roof) when it had its ribbon cutting before most of us were born. Besides, most of the years that this building has stood it endured active vibrant teenagers, now it is subject to overcrowding with co-op, maintenance and transportation, the tax office and admin all housed there now.

This building is just one example, albeit an obvious one, of the need to make some changes. I chose it because my more libertarian friends fight almost any public expenditure by making the simple assertion that money should have been set back all along as this was planned for.

I have two comments about a statement that sounds good but does not meet the reality test. First comment: “In reality, it is a rare person or organization that sets back money and pays cash for a building. While it seems ideal, it has not happened and we need to go forward from here. Low interest rates make this a good time to go forward.

Second comment: There is only one constant involved in the school business and in Liberty ISD. It is not the school board or the Superintendent, we have had many of those. Long term planning is being done by the current board and administrators, for example a bus rotation plan that uses grants and a time schedule to keep the fleet current. This is good solid business planning, but the only consistent “controlling authority” has always been the taxpayer. And we need to examine the current proposal and see if we can catch up with what needs to be done to give our children and our community a school that has the best chance of success while at the same time holds our yearly tax bills down.

Richard Pegues

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