The FISD Bond election was actually “A Tale of Two Elections”(with apologies to Charles Dickens). The first was Early Voting and was held for the people living inside the school cloud. FISD’s campaign was filled with feel-good platitudes, was extremely well funded (with our tax dollars and special interest PAC money), and was built around a rolling polling and entertainment strategy designed to micro-target their preferred voters. Give FISD due credit. It was one of the best planned and executed political campaigns I have seen, at any level.
The second election was played out on Election Day, a day those voters who were not part of the school cloud could come out to vote. But FISD moved the “fixed” polling locations from their regular locations to further the difficulty in getting to the polls. It often seemed that the only value of these voters to the school district was to send large amounts of tax money to pay for the debt being racked up. The Coalition representing these voters presented a platform filled with facts that were never in dispute. 100% of the Coalition’s funding came from Frisco residents and none came from architects, contractors, etc. who stood to make millions from the FISD’s bond. The school was in planning for this election for over a year. But the opposition was limited to two months to prepare because the bond request grew from a preliminary net of $480 million to the end amount of $775 million – a whopping 61% increase by the Bond Committee.
The first election – Early Voting – the school cloud won handily 80%-20%. Their plan to close the schools on the first day of early voting and hold teacher workshops inside the actual polling locations worked perfectly. And the next six days featured numerous book fairs, PTA meetings, school supply sales, bounce houses, etc. to get the target voters onto the school grounds the day that each school hosted the polls.
The second – Election Day – was another story. When a cross-section of Frisco residents voted, the margin shrunk to a very competitive 55-45%. And the bond was actually voted down on the Denton County half of the city by 52-48.
So the overall strategy of FISD was successful. The 5,400 employees of FISD, the 53 “non-profit” PTAs and the PAC money prevailed by 77 to 23%. That being said, when we had the opportunity to present our story to those voters, we were able to “flip” a substantial majority!
It was a fitting footnote that Collin County released their 2014 property assessments showing an average 9% increase in valuation. That translates to a 9% increase in the taxes we will all pay to FISD. Remember that FISD example of $17 a month? Well that same $272,000 house just got hit with a $357 increase in taxes and that is BEFORE any tax rate increase from the bond. Or maybe with that kind of taxable valuation increase, FISD will be able to maintain the charade that Frisco has a “low 42 cent” tax rate. The issue isn’t the tax rate, it is the taxes PAID!
A bright light has now illuminated FISD finance. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, the narrative has already been changed. The watchdog function of the Responsible Spending Coalition will continue. Transparency, Accountability and Fiscal Responsibility remain the watchwords.