We’ve been writing about potential bond elections on this Blog since early this year. While we were on vacation, 3 entities adopted ballot language asking the voters to approve bonds.
Houston ISD is seeking the most with a bond request of $1.9 billion. Gulp. That is a lot of money, any way you describe it. The HISD bond will require a property tax increase. Meanwhile, Houston Community College passed a bond issue of $425 million to place before the voters that will also require a tax increase. The City of Houston is asking the voters to agree with a $410 million bond issue that will NOT require a tax increase. However, specifics on the usage of bond money is somewhat vague.
That brings us to a total of $2.7 billion in bond requests to Houston area voters this year with guaranteed property tax increases for at least two of the entities.
Additionally, METRO will be asking the voters to approve a compromise plan on long-term management of .25% of their 1 cent sales tax collection in the METRO service area. This issue is so complicated that even seasoned politicos have trouble parsing it out and explaining it. I do not envy these campaign consultants as they have to educate voters on the most basic of details regarding the proposal.
More importantly, the METRO issue complicates things for conservative voters. If the conservative voters just wanted to run a “Vote NO on Bonds” campaign urging everyone to vote against HISD, HCC and the City, that is great. However, they are left with saying “Vote Yes” on the METRO referendum. It is confusing to voters.
And, the poor City of Houston loses out completely because their bond request doesn’t require a tax increase but gets taken down by the others that do. It’s not likely that someone will run a campaign that urges voters to “Vote No, Yes, No, Yes” or something of the sort.
Each issue will have an independently run campaign with their own messaging. That’s 4 independent groups raising funds from the region’s engineers, contractors, lawyers and others that will stand to benefit from the results of the elections. $2.7 billion in new work dollars is certainly encouraging enough to donate to these efforts. They will be trying to distinguish themselves from each other. “Vote for us because…… you need better schools, better work-force preparedness, better parks, better buses”, etc. I’m sure you can hear the ads already.
To add further challenge to these issues, they will be at the end of a very long ballot. Most people that show up to vote in November will be focused on casting their ballot in the longest of American traditions, for the United States President. Some will work their way down the ballot to District Attorney and Sheriff but even fewer will keep voting to the bond issues.
Personally, I’m confused by all these referendums and will look to learn and share more information in the next few weeks.