Editorial

Let’s engage in a little math:

49,283 – 7,185 = 42,098.

100 – 15= 85.

Either way you look at it, the answer is the same – an overwhelming majority of the 49,283 registered voters in Victoria County who could cast a vote in the May 1 city and school elections did not.

By not voting, those 85 % are saying our school facilities and the amount of property tax we pay is not important. That could not be further from the truth.

The remaining 15 % — those who made it to the polls – were left to make the important decisions for who would represent us on the city council and school board.

More importantly they were left to decide if Victoria school children would soon have safe and healthy buildings in which to learn and thrive. The “Nos” won the bond election race with 8 % of the eligible voting citizens against the bond.

The apathetic nonvoters also allowed the 8% Nos to decide on their future tax rates.

In all fairness, if the numbers were reversed and 85% went to the polls, the outcome could have been the same. But we will never know.

Victoria voters are gaining the reputation of not caring about the future of education and the future of their children and grandchildren.

This is the second bond proposal that included rebuilding existing facilities -including Stroman Middle School and Mission Valley Elementary School — that voters have struck down. The first was in 2017.

Voting is a right that we should not take for granted. We as Americans have that right to cast votes in local, state and national election We should take it seriously by going to vote every time there is an election.

Historically the national and state elections gain the most attention because voters can buy into the Republican or Democratic party identity.

Elections held in May, however, typically draw smaller crowds because most are nonpartisan and do not attract the participation, explained Craig Goodman, Ph.D., interim dean of the School of Arts & Sciences and associate professor of political science at the University of Houston-Victoria. The nonpartisan elections have a lot of information to sort through at the cost of voters because voters are not motivated to do the leg work.

The May 1 election had the highest voter turnout of May elections since 2017, which brought in 14.9 % of the voters. In 2019, when voters elected a mayor, two council members and one school board member, 12.15 % voted, according to the Victoria County Election Administrator’s website.

The ironic thing is the May elections are the ones that have the most impact on voters’ daily lives. By being able to vote on bond issues, charter amendments and city council and school board representation, local voters can say how they want their city and school district run. They have more control on the local races than on the state and national races, but they do not go to the polls.

Another irony, while voting down the bond proposal, those who did vote elected two school board members who publicly said they supported the bond package.

On one hand the voters said don’t approve the bond and don’t raise my taxes, while on the other hand they said we support the two candidates who are pro-bond which means raising taxes. It is a mixed message and one that is hard to make sense of.

We are sure newly elected board member Amanda Lingle and returning board member Estella De Los Santos will do their best to work with the rest of the board to find a way to fund repairs to the district’s facilities.

It is tempting to suggest the district max out their maintenance and operating tax rate every year so they can raise the tax money to make the desperately needed repairs and rebuilds.

But the state legislature stopped that option when it changed the taxing rules in the 2019 session. In a nutshell, if a school district wants to increase its tax rate above the current rate, the district must hold an election to get voter approval.

So here we go again having an election that history shows will have a low turnout.

How are districts ever going to raise needed revenue without holding successful bond elections? School districts are funded by taxpayers. The products they produce are well educated students who move on to college or technical school to learn a trade or profession so they can be contributing members of the towns they live and support their families.

It is time for voters to take their responsibility to their community seriously and vote in all elections, especially the local ones that impact them directly.

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This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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