Thursday, June 30, 2011

Since we like credibility gaps here...

Keller, TX recently tried to pass a tax referendum to raise property taxes to cover the impending budget shortfall in their school district. The news was flush with horror stories of how there would be massive layoffs if the referendum didn't pass. It just so happens that Keller's school tax rate is the highest in Tarrant County and one of the highest in the state. Voters said, "Oh hell no." to the referendum. Turns out things aren't as bad as Keller made them look. They managed to save slightly less than half of the positions they said they'd have to cut. Now I'm not saying 122 employees from a district of about 1,000 employees isn't a massive layoff but if you're going to put your nuts up on the table and say "Do this or else..." you lose a ton of credibility if the "or else..." doesn't happen.

While this is good news for the employees who will not be cut, this whole referendum stinks of fear-mongering. The only explanation of additional funding Keller received was "$4.8 million in federal money." Yeah, because districts don't know what federal dollars they'll get beforehand. Look, things are bad for Keller. They are facing layoffs. They are facing a budget crunch. Making things look as bad as possible to get more tax money was entirely unnecessary and will just make it that much harder for school districts to pass similar referendums throughout the state.

2 comments:

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Wait.

They said they'd face a funding gap. They face a funding gap.

They said they'd have to fire a bunch of teachers. They have to fire a bunch of teachers.

They found some Federal money to save 113 jobs for one year. Meaning that money might not be there next year.

The majority of these positions are in extracurricular topics.

And 6 of the positions they kept had to serve as testing coordinators in Middle Schools. I wonder how many more jobs they could have saved if they didn't have to pay for a bunch of standardized testing...

And they're the ones losing credibility here?

Dante said...

You don't just find federal money, especially not enough to make or break the decision to lay off 100 employees. School districts know more or less how much federal money they'll receive. That money may be slightly higher or lower by the time they turn in things like FTE counts, but not a multi-million dollar gap. Irving pulled the same stunt when lobbying to get a portion of Texas' rainy day fund. They claimed 180 teachers would be laid off. Once it was painfully obvious that fund wasn't going to get tapped, Irving ended up laying off 30 employees. The most effective way to scare-monger is to include some truth in the mix.

"And 6 of the positions they kept had to serve as testing coordinators in Middle Schools. I wonder how many more jobs they could have saved if they didn't have to pay for a bunch of standardized testing..."

I'll agree with you there, but neighboring districts are managing and with less tax revenue. On the same token, how many positions could they have saved if 60% of their overall budget weren't spent on capital costs? Keller is a good school district but nobody in the state of Texas does less with more. It also doesn't help that they have a Jan-Brady-sized inferiority complex with neighboring Carroll ISD, which is absolutely flush with cash thanks to the absurdly high property values in Southlake and Westlake.