Cy-Fair ISD Board Shows Contempt to Voters - Changing Board Terms and Election Cycle Without Public Input
by Bob Price on December 29, 2011 at 6:53 PM
In a display of arrogance and contempt for public oversight, the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District Board of Trustees voted 6-1 to approve a motion to change the term of service for board members and to move the elections to odd-numbered years. The "special meeting" was called with little notice, hidden amongst the chaos of the Christmas holiday season. The board made certain not to place "Public Comment" as an item on the agenda. The lone dissenting vote on this item - Bill Morris.
A presentation was made by Associate Superintendent for Governmental, Community and Planning Initiatives, Dr. Pam Wells about the increasing cost of school board elections since Texas law changed requiring school districts to hold elections in conjunction with state-wide or city elections. Wells stated the cost of these elections had risen from a cost of $38,500 in May of 2006 to over $224,000 in the most recent election.
Wells stated that by moving the elections to only being held on odd-numbered years the district would save around $250,000 every two years or $125,000 annually. Contrast this number with the administrative cost of Associate and Assistant Superintendents. These positions cost the tax payers anywhere from $112,673 to $199,500. There are thirteen people being paid in these positions according to a database supplied by the Texas Tribune. In fact, in the video below, you will see over $1,000,000 per year in admistrative salaries (Board Members receive no pay).
In light of these kinds of administrative salaries, it makes me question the district's interest in cost savings and wonder what the real motivation of making these changes might be. While listening to the board discussion and looking at the results of election turnout and participation by school vendors in the campaign process, I think the answer is very clear. The administration of CFISD wants as little participation and oversight by you, the voters, as possible.
Historically, odd-numbered year elections have the worst voter turnout. In November of 2011, about 12,000 votes were cast for trustees representing about 5% of the total registered voters in the district. Compare that to November 2010, an election where about 45% of registered voters turned out casting about 67,000 votes for trustees. (Source, HarrisVotes.com)
One fear expressed by board members is there would be one election cycle where the majority of the board (4 members) would be up for election in a single vote. They expressed great concern that citizens wanting change might actually take over the board.
During the discussion on this matter I was also stunned at the unprofessional conduct of some of the board members who criticized board members who had just recently been replaced on the board. These members who had been elected by the taxpayers and voters of the district were criticized for having a "political agenda". That agenda? Public oversight and fiscally conservative principles.
It is also interesting to note that the board hurriedly swore in the new members instead of waiting until January to make certain they had their "buddies" on the board to vote in favor of these proposals.
At the end of the video, I interviewed Board President Bob Covey and School Board Watchdog, Kay Smith for their comments about this meeting. These two saw this meeting in very different lights. One might even wonder if they were at the same meeting. Their comments reflect the core of what this article represents and are very interesting to say the least.
We will continue to watch these school boards for displays of control and arrogance towards the voting public. When we see items like this, we will certainly bring them to your attention. This meeting was a disgraceful display of public arrogance by elected officials. Their contempt for you, the voters and tax-payers was not even the least bit disguised.
Low voter turnout is essential to these boards. Special interest groups (school employees and vendors) want to make certain they can control who gets on the board and doles out taxpayer dollars. This is evidenced by the over $100,000 that was spent by these groups to keep grass roots voters off the board.
What say you?