If you cast a ballot this month for Bloomington school district’s bond proposal, you surely saw some language — mandated by the state to be there — that may have led you to change your vote.
Required as part of landmark 2019 school finance bill passed by the Texas Legislature, the language “This is a property tax increase” is required on every ballot with a school district bond proposal of any kind.
For the Bloomington school district’s $1.1 million bond proposal, which largely would’ve funded additional security measures and improvements to trade facilities on the district’s campuses, the language was present even though a tax increase was not being considered.
It is entirely possible the language may have misled voters in the final hours of an already low-turnout election, which ultimately concluded with voters rejecting the proposal.
It is not a stretch that a handful changed their vote while first reading the ballot. When only 136 people vote, a handful is all it takes to change the outcome
The solution is simple: Texas lawmakers must make this language reflect was is being proposed. If there is a tax increase, say so. If there is not, don’t mention the non-existent increase.
Will Holleman, the assistant director of the Texas Association of School Boards, said the majority of school board elections do include an increase in the district’s property taxes. However, like what happened in Bloomington, there are some elections where the sweeping language does not correlate with what is on the ballot.
Ballot language should be unquestionably neutral and accurate to yield the appropriate outcome. If the bond were to fail, it should be on the merits of the proposal, not because of outside factors.
The district proposed using $1.1 million of about $1.6 million in its interest and sinking funds accrued from previous bonds passed by voters, covering the entirety of costs without raising taxes.
The goals of the proposal are not outlandish. In a time where school shootings are on the rise, additional security for campuses should be an easy initiative for people to get behind. Investing in renovating aging trade facilities that help students pursue well-paying professions is worth the investment, especially when it comes without a hike in taxes.
When this proposal is brought up again, we hope school officials do a better job of informing voters of their goals and the need for the confusing language.
We hope, also, that Bloomington voters look past the language when the bond proposal comes back up next year.
Most importantly, we urge legislators to change this over-board language requirement.