David Dziadziola is challenging Diane Cox for Place 3 on the Round Rock ISD board of directors. Although the race is non-partisan in that candidates do not have to state their political party to run, Mr. Dziadziola has been active in local Republican and conservative groups, while Ms. Cox is a Democrat. She was the lone Williamson County citizen to appear in a television commercial praising former Democrat State Representative Diana Maldonado’s in her failed re-election campaign last fall. Last Thursday, several members of the Williamson County Republican Women’s (WCRW) Club sponsored a fundraiser for Mr. Dziadziola. Also, last week, a number of candidate forums were held with a variety of topics discussed including the school district’s budget, the tax rate and more. Holly Hansen, former president of WCRW and local conservative activist, has this to say on her blog, Williamson County Conservative, about the forums:
“Will The Real Diane Cox Please Stand Up?
At one of last week’s forums for the Round Rock Independent School District Board, candidates were asked about raising district property taxes without voter approval. According to the Round Rock Leader, Diane Cox replied, “If we do raise taxes even by that small of an amount we need to get voter approval.”
What the Leader story did not deign to mention is the fact that Diane Cox serves as President of the Central Texas School Board Association, and that CTSBA is actively lobbying to change State law to allow school districts to raise property taxes without voter approval. Not only is Ms. Cox the President of this organization, but on August 19 of 2010, she presented to the RRISD Board an agenda item that includes the following:
Additional Golden Pennies: The current finance system requires school districts to seek voter approval in setting the maintenance and operation tax rate above $1.04. Legislation is needed which grants school boards the discretion of two additional golden pennies without voter approval.”
Interestingly enough, the CTBSA brochure outlining their 2011 legislative agenda (which includes the above item,) states “Publication design by RRISD.” Sounds like the RRISD and the CTSBA have been working very, very closely.
While the Round Rock Leader has chosen to ignore this information, the Community Impact’s report includes the following:
In previous years, the Central Texas School Board Association, which Cox is president of, has lobbied at the Texas Capitol for a measure that would allow school boards to raise taxes without voters’ consent. Cox said that she is not lobbying for such a measure this year, but noted, “There is a fundamental issue with the whole [education finance] system.”
Of course, Diane Cox’ desire for the power to raise taxes without voter approval is no secret to political activists in Williamson County. Last Fall at a candidate forum for Texas House District 52 candidates, Ms. Cox asked Larry Gonzales and Diana Maldonado if they would support raising the tax cap without voter approval. According to witnesses, Cox became so upset with the resulting conversation that she stomped out of the building.
Challenger David Dziadziola has been adamant about keeping voters involved in the process of setting tax rates. Matt Stillwell, who is challenging Brian Sellers, gave an interesting answer when asked if he favored allowing tax increases without voter approval, “In extreme circumstances, it would be a good thing to have in the toolbox, but as a general rule, it should be put to a vote.” Well, alrighty then.
Perhaps Diane Cox has had a change of heart about this important policy issue. If so, she should resign as CTSBA President and repudiate its legislative agenda. If not, it doesn’t seem she is being entirely genuine about her stance on the issue.” To read more of Holly’s blog, go to http://www.wilcoconservative.blogspot.com.
I attended one of the school board candidate forums, which was held at the Greater Round Rock West Neighborhood Association meeting last Tuesday, and Ms. Cox basically danced around the subject of the “golden pennies.” She said that she is working with members of the legislature so that the public can better understand the current system as she believes that we do not understand it as it is now. I am not sure exactly what she means by this, but I know that most, if not all, conservatives, would tell you that they understand that voters have the right to vote on raising their school taxes now and would like to keep that right.
The early voting schedule for all local elections is as follows:
DATES AND TIMES FOR FULL-TIME LOCATIONS:
Monday, May 2 through Saturday, May 7 – 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
NO Sunday voting
Monday, May 9 and Tuesday, May 10 – 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Locations in Round Rock include the McConico Building at 301 S. Bagdad St. and Round Rock Randall’s grocery store, 2051 Gattis School Road. For a full list of locations, go to http://www.wilco.org
and click on the elections page.
(This column consists of my opinions and observations. It does not reflect those of any other person or organization.)