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Taxpayers Win! Round Rock ISD $572 million Bonds all defeated

In photo from left:  Pam Oldham, Paul Matthews, Patrick McGuinness, John Gordon, Don Zimmerman, Dave Schmidt.

A remarkable coalition of grass roots forces, from conservative-libertarian to progressive-democrat, (a fiscally conservative “Union” if you will) combined efforts to defeat not just Round Rock ISD District political forces but the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber contributed at least $10,000 to the pro-Bond PAC) and the usual subsidized-growth interests.  THANK YOU to activists and voters, and especially Patrick McGuinness and Ed Buckley of “Round Rock Parents and Taxpayers Association” – that is, “there’s a new PTA in District”.

http://kxan.com/2017/05/06/part-of-round-rock-isd-bond-fails-close-race-for-other-propositions/

Also thanks to Williamson County (John Gordon) GOP, and Travis County GOP (James Dickey) for getting Resolutions passed opposing the RR ISD Bonds.

OTHER STORIES:

http://www.fox7austin.com/news/local-news/253427599-story

http://keyetv.com/news/local/winners-losers-in-round-rock-isd-school-bond-election-mull-future

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Who is funding “Classrooms for Kids” for $572M RR ISD Bond?

Who is funding “Classrooms for Kids?”
Pamela Oldham
from
Estates at Settlers Park
Most signs and mailings to voters supporting RRISD’s Bond Propositions come from “Classrooms for Kids” (CFK). Since mailings are particularly expensive, voters may be curious about who is funding CFK. As the expression goes, “Follow the money.” What was found is that 93% of the total $68,384 contributions to CFK over the past 2 months came from business organizations (plus one dissolved PAC), many of which stand to gain financially by passage of the RRISD bonds. Attached is a summary of contributions based on type of contributor. The source of this information is the Texas Ethics Commission which receives monthly financial disclosures showing contributions and expenses. Classrooms for Kids filed its most recent report on April 27. The filer is the PAC’s treasurer, Michael Doss, past Chair of the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce and Area President for the Independent Bank Group where it appears he focuses on commercial construction and public sector lending.  Individuals not included in the business category of the attached analysis with obvious ties to business include people such as two sitting Round Rock City Council members, the current President and CEO of the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce, the CEO of a civil engineering firm that, according to the company’s website, has been involved in Texas toll road projects and school and public sector projects elsewhere, and at least two owners of commercial real estate firms. While some businesses and business-related individuals may have contributed to Classrooms for Kids out of a genuine desire to help the kids, there is ample reason to believe that their motives are not entirely pure.
Several projects included in the bonds have at least as much to do with economic development in Round Rock as they do with educating kids in an RRISD coverage area that extends well beyond the City of Round Rock.
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“Citizens Bond Committee” Members AGAINST $572M RR ISD BOND

CITIZENS BOND COMMITTEE MEMBERS COME OUT AGAINST THE Round Rock ISD BOND PROPS for $572,000,000:  NOT THIS BOND

“I read all the information available on the RRISD web page. According to the District, the Citizens Bond Committee recommended the bond sale. Is that not true?”

While the CBC has done so, there are quite a few individuals who served on the Citizens Bond Committee (CBC) who are opposing the bond. Here’s why: The CBC process was a process that was not truly citizen-driven but driven by he RRISD administration to get what they wanted, The projects were not defined by the CBC, but the administration. Most all of the CBC did not even get to see input from principals at the schools. They held only a few meetings (three total meetings for one participant) and did not seriously vet projects. In many cases cost estimates were SWAGs rather than based on rigorous engineering-based cost-estimation.

One of the observations made was how the CBC committees had a lot of administration people involved, how Round Rock chamber-tied people were leading committees, etc. When the CBC ‘recommended’ this, a hand-picked stacked deck was rubber-stamping an administration plan. With a sham process done for PR not decision-making, the result was a very flawed product on many level. Many CBC members are saying “Not This Bond” in response to a process that has gone off the rails.

“I served on the Citizen’s Bond Committee this year and have first hand experience as to details and unanswered questions for this bond ask. I will vote “NO” without hesitation on all three propositions.” – Ruth Ann Dickensheets, former PTA President, CBC member

“I served on this citizen’s bond committee … Those of us on the committee had difficulty getting answers, answers changed on a whim, emails were not returned, and many of us generally felt as though the various projects were hastily evaluated. I have serious concerns about the process by which these projects were vetted and how the district came up with the numbers.” – Tracy Armstrong, CBC member

“I am a huge supporter of public education and have always worked hard to support bonds; however, I cannot support this bond. This is not a decision that I came to lightly and not a decision I made without doing lots and lots of homework and research (I have attended 3 public presentations). For those of you that don’t know, I chaired the elementary sub committee on the 2008/2014 bonds, sat on the boundary committee, and have served in various leadership positions in my kiddos elementary, middle and high schools. … Several CBC members, some who I know and others that I don’t, but whose judgement I respect are not supporting the bond. They raised red flags regarding the process to the school administration and to the board and those concerns were ignored. … There are serious needs in the district and much work to be done but the district needs to go back to the table, properly engage the community, and bring back something that makes sense to all the stakeholders in our communities. No one is saying no to bonds, we are saying NOT THIS BOND.” – Kellyn Bradford, Round Rock ISD Council of PTAs.

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Don’t allow Round Rock City to charge extravagant pool to RR ISD Taxpayers!

Vote NO on Natatorium in RRISD Bond Proposal #3  (May 6th, 2017 Round Rock ISD Bond Election)
The City of Round Rock should take the lead role to construct, operate and maintain the indoor aquatic center (natatorium) if it is needed at all. It is NOT the proper role of RRISD to fund this project at a cost of $22 million, much less to pay annual operating and maintenance costs of $500,000. The natatorium is bundled in RRISD Bond Proposition #3 and just one of several reasons to vote it down.
Public discussion regarding a natatorium started in spring 2015 with two options under consideration. Option 1 consisted of a facility to seat up to 1500 spectators and included an 8-lane x 50 meter pool, a warm up/down pool, a 25 meter dive pool and dive spa. Option 1 had a construction cost of $31 million (excluding land purchase) and estimated operating/maintenance costs of $750,000/year. Option 2 removed the dive pool and spa and reduced seating to 600-800 spectators. Option 2 had a construction cost of $24 million and estimated operating/maintenance costs of $500,000/year. The following article provides an overview:

https://communityimpact.com/austin/round-rock-pflugerville-hutto/development- construction/2016/08/31/round-rock-officials-consider-options-possible-swim-facility/

The City of Round Rock initially took the lead on the natatorium because a major part of the justification is the economic benefit to local businesses from attracting outside events (which requires a large facility plus marketing efforts). The natatorium will be used by private swim clubs, adults and others besides RRISD. And given the natatorium’s location, the natatorium is unlikely likely to be of benefit to adults or businesses in western areas of RRISD, particularly Austin. For some unexplained reason, RRISD’s Citizen Bond Committee (CBC) stepped in to take the lead on the project in October 2016. It went from being a city-led project that would benefit RRISD (among other paying clients) to a RRISD-led project that would also benefit private swim clubs, individuals and local
businesses. The shift in approach was probably because natatorium supporters realized that it would be easier to get funding by bundling the project into an education bond. Saying “it’s for the kids” is easier than justifying the natatorium on its own merits. Natatorium supporters claim that it will be used for high school swim team practices, which is not logistically feasible in terms of drive times and practice schedules. With just 8 lanes, the facility cannot practically be used as a practice facility for more than 2 teams concurrently. It will be of little to no use as a practice facility for Westwood, McNeil or the 6th high school (if it is built). RRISD could host 6 high school swim meets per year plus the District 11 Championship currently held at Jamail Swim Center at UT. But is it really worthwhile to invest $22 million and pay $500,000/year to host 7 meets per year?
The City of Round Rock has pledged to support the facility but has not quantified that support in dollar terms. If RRISD goes it alone, taxpayers should not be surprised if RRISD comes back in a couple of years with another bond proposal to expand the natatorium. If the project is not pursued, RRISD’s Board of Trustees can redirect the $22 million wherever they like. It could be used to fund some other project without seeking voter approval. In my opinion, RRISD will not be the primary beneficiary of the natarorium. If such a facility is needed, the City of Round Rock should build and operate it. The City can then charge RRISD and other users for its use.

Marshall Sprigg 4-17-2017

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Reasons why Round Rock ISD $572 million Bonds Deserve an “F”

RRISD Bonds Deserve an “F”

The RRISD Bond Propositions contain many worthwhile projects, but as I have explained in previous posts, at least 40% of the $572 million is earmarked for projects of questionable need, that could bedeferred, or that have excessive price tags. RRISD may have gotten it 60% right, but that is still a failing grade.
Recognizing that most voters do not have time to peel back the layers of the onion, I have done a lot of research and posted multiple threads to explain why the 3 Bond Propositions should be voted down. For your convenience, I am summarizing them here and providing links to documents with more detail. The first document is a 5-page summary of reasons to vote “NO” on the bonds. It explains why some projects are not justified by RRISD’s own enrollment projections, how nice-to-have projects are bundled with other projects to force the hand of voters, how RRISD’s track poor track record of managing operating expense raises doubts about its ability to spend bond money efficiently, and why voters should focus on debt service payments rather than incremental tax rates.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7INiYVvPNC6MVZpRUQtLTZJOUU/view?usp=sharing

The second document goes into more depth on why RRISD’s efforts to focus on incremental tax rates is like looking at the tip of an iceberg while ignoring what is below the surface.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7INiYVvPNC6M09EZ3NBUC1jeGM/view?usp=sharing

The third document shows why High School #6 in Proposition #1 is not needed in the near future, especially after spending $64 million to expand Round Rock HS. Even if HS #6 is needed at some point, the $150 million price tag will make it the most expensive high school in the history of Texas, even after adjusting for inflation. By reducing its physical size to match Cedar Ridge, RRISD could reduce the cost by at least $33 million.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7INiYVvPNC6aHAzRXZPVFhmQ1E/view?usp=sharing

The fourth document shows why conversion of CD Fulkes Middle to a visual and performing arts center in Proposition #2 is not a wise decision. The total cost to build the academy is $51 million ($6 million from 2014 bonds + $45 million from 2017 bonds) versus $15.5 million to renovate/upgrade existing facilities at CD Fulkes. The $36 million premium will not result in higher enrollment, so it has nothing to do with growth.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7INiYVvPNC6UEtRX1lncmJhWFU/view?usp=sharing
The fifth document shows why the Indoor Aquatic Center ($22 million) in Proposition #3 is a project of questionable value, and if pursued at all, should be built and operated by the City of Round Rock, not RRISD.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7INiYVvPNC6VlB5c3lJMEN2Njg/view?usp=sharing
The final document discusses RRISD’s elusive goal of becoming a “destination” school district and how this fuels its unending appetite for spending.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7INiYVvPNC6alZrQlZJa1VwRGs/view?usp=sharing

Marshall Sprigg 4-25-2017

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TCTU files ethics complaint against pro-Bond PAC

Early voting against Round Rock ISD Unaffordable, Wasteful and Dishonest Bond starts TODAY (24-Apr-2017), and there is news about our Ethics Complaint against the Pro-Bond corporate PAC forces. It appears that a “corporate” contribution of $7,536.75 was made by a PAC which dissolved itself 2 months before making the contribution, in violation of Texas Election Code Title 15, 253.031(b):

KEYE TV – Travis County Taxpayer’s Union submits ethics complaint against pro-Bond PAC

KXAN TV covers Round Rock BOND opposition, ethics complaint

Austin Statesman says Round Rock ISD Pro-Bond PAC violated rules

Don Zimmerman claims a political action committee in support of the Round Rock school district illegaly donated to the bond proposal’s campaign. Photo by Mike Parker

A political action committee supporting the Round Rock school district’s $572 million bond proposal made an illegal contribution to another PAC after it was dissolved, according to the state ethics commission. (Austin American-Statesman)

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Round Rock ISD Parents & Taxpayers VOTE NO TAX campaign events!

[From Patrick McGuinness]:
To followup on my prior email about yard sign and flyer distribution, these
are the events planned to do the
flyer and sign distribution on Friday and Saturday:Friday
– 4pm Caraway ES – distribute flyers and yard signs
– 5pm Canyon Vista MS – distribute flyers and yard signs
– 6pm McNeil HS (by the PAC) 5800 McNeil Dr, Round Rock – distribute
flyers and yard signs
– we will also get some sent over to Canyon Creek and Anderson Mill area(s)

Saturday
– 10am Brushy Creek Elementary – distribute signs and flyers and blockwalk
Brushy Creek
– 2pm Williamson County Tax office – Quick rally, distribute signs and
flyers and blockwalk
nearby Chandler Creek and Saddlebrook Estates
1801 E Old Settlers Boulevard, Round Rock

The more the merrier, so come by.

If you know someone who needs a sign but needs it delivered, let us know.
Also,
as you distribute signs be sure to tell folks who put them in their yard to
put them at
the POLLING locations on (the night before) election day.

Regards,
Patrick

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Round Rock ISD Vote NO $572M Bond – Press Conference Success

KEYE TV on Taxpayer Groups Opposed to Round Rock ISD Bond

“I am just a citizen, father, taxpayer, veteran that’s fed up with this spending that’s out of control.” That’s all Round Rock resident David Schmidt had to say as taxpayer advocates gathered to oppose Round Rock ISD’s $572 million bond package.

Opponents complain this is Round Rock ISD’s biggest bond election ever. But supporters counter the district’s needs are also the biggest ever. And both sides have just a few weeks to win hearts and minds.

John Gordon doesn’t mince words when he talks about the upcoming bond election. The long-time Round Rock resident says, “This is an excessive, large, very wasteful inappropriate bonds. It’s going to hammer our community. It will make our community less financially successful.”

Today a coalition of local groups spoke out against the $572 million package and the burden they believe it will put on the taxpayers. Dr Pat McGuiness with Round Rock Parents & Taxpayers Association says, “There’s much more wrong with this bond package thank simply a huge price tag. Misplaced and questionable priorities, wasteful items priced excessively, lack of proper project planning and vetting and worse.”

But supporters counter the bond package was had plenty of input from the public and school principals. Ron Buffum, who chairs of the bond committee says, “All of the principals of the 54 campuses were approached and we asked them what do we need to do to your campus to improve it to benefit the students.”

They say the bonds address current crowding and prepare the district for the future. Catherine Hannah, a former school board president says, “The parents and the community members and the business folks who support the district want innovation and flexibility so the kids can have the ability to focus on fine arts and STEAM and engineering and health sciences.”

Early voting begins April 24 and election day is May 6. If you want to see what improvements the bonds might fund at your school, Round Rock ISD has put together an online bond guide. Follow the link below.

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PRESS CONFERENCE against RR ISD $572M Bonds

Live Press conference / campaign launch against $572 Round Rock ISD Bonds

Austin, TX,   10-Apr-2017:

The Travis County Taxpayers Union (TCTU) and other groups will have a live Press Conference launching the opposition campaign against Round Rock ISD’s “unaffordable, wasteful, Dishonest” Bond propositions.

What:  Groups opposed to Round Rock ISD Bond

When:  Wednesday, Apr. 12, 2017, 12 noon

Where:  1311 Round Rock in Round Rock (RR ISD admin headquarters on RR 620 across from Sonic)
Also, TCTU Analyst Roger Falk will compare Round Rock ISD and Hays ISD illegal and unethical pro-Bond marketing methods paid for at taxpayer’s expense.

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TCTU Introduces Round Rock Parents and Taxpayers Association

Finally – a new kind of “PTA”!

TCTU is please to welcome more grass roots activists to the call for transparency, affordability, accountability in local government.

FACEBOOK link:

Round Rock Parents and Taxpayers Association

e.g. From FB postings:

My 2 cents to add to all the commentary….

This bond offering is dishonest, misleading and probably illegal! At the Westwood HS public hearing Tuesday, neither the Administration nor the Board of Trustees were able to satisfactorily answer basic questions such as actual bond/tax costs, new school boundaries, detail on any of the projects including the new proposed $150,000,000 High School #6 and $22,000,000 Natatorium. Furthermore, this is the LARGEST BOND OFFERING in the history of RRISD! This follows the $300,000,000 bond approved in 2014 and adds to the existing bond indebtedness of $800,000,000, thus generating a potential total district debt of nearly $1.4 BILLION!!

There are no definitive plans for any of these projects….they are just ideas and concepts. What the Board is really asking the taxpayers for is a $572,100,000 “blank check”!

I am always supportive of our children and teachers with sound educational disciplines and initiatives…but, this bond does not remotely achieve that. As responsible citizens, we must say NO to THIS bond!!