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Texarkana ISD wants two property tax increases for $200 million spending spree - as more live paycheck to paycheck

Aug 12, 2022

A recession combined with skyrocketing gas and food prices did not deter the TISD Board of Trustees from voting unanimously to beg voters to approve two new property tax increases. The money will be used to fund $189 million of extravagantly expensive projects put forth by new Superintendent Doug Brubaker.

All of it will be funded by debt that will burden generations of local citizens.

It's way too much

When the Superintendent and Board of Trustees announced they wanted about two hundred million dollars, it surprised taxpayers. But, to put that huge number in perspective: A stack of 200 million one-dollar bills would reach over 70,000 feet - or more than 13 miles tall. 

This is a nearly unimaginable number that no Texarkana superintendent would have ever asked for in the past - especially in a district where 52% of high school students are on free or reduced lunch, according to the school information site, Niche.

Texarkana ISD only serves about 7,200 students and has never had a bond issue of over $30 million in the past. In fact, all four TISD bond elections from 1999 until 2022 were $29 million or under. This means that the request for $189,000,000 is six-and-half times greater than any previous bond proposal in TISD history.

And the last TISD bond election for $29 million in 2014 barely passed with 3060 votes "for" and 2763 'against." In 2010, a similar $29 million bond issue for TISD actually failed when voters soured on the district's plans.

Local accountants are appalled

Texarkana News contacted two local accountants. Both said they were shocked by the TISD bond issue plans, but only one of them was willing to discuss the numbers.

"I read that they were seeking just under $200 million, and I expected the amount to come down to maybe $50 million in spending," the accountant said. "But this is a mountain of debt. And if the bond election goes through, Texas law gives the school district the authority to raise taxes even further to service the debt without asking voters."

Superintendent will be long gone after money is spent

The average tenure of a school superintendent in Texas is about four years, and Brubaker will likely head for the exit as soon as his $200 million checkbook runs dry.

Brubaker left Fort Smith for Texarkana in 2021 after money from Fort Smith's bond election had almost all been spent.

Moreover, Brubaker wants TISD to spend much more than the Fort Smith school district - even though Fort Smith has more than double the number of students as TISD. Plus, Fort Smith had not had a successful bond election in more than 30 years, while TISD had one in 2014.

How it started

Doug Brubaker came to TISD in 2021, and it was an open secret among Texas and Arkansas superintendents that Brubaker was planning a substantial bond proposal for Texarkana ISD. (Click here to read full details). And he followed almost the exact same playbook he used when he was superintendent of Fort Smith, Arkansas schools.

Doug Brubaker began his laser-focused mission by surveying each TISD campus in early 2021. Then, he and the Board of Trustees wasted approx. $40,000 (not including travel expenses) to bring two people from a Virginia firm to Texarkana to help create a mission statement and strategic plan called Imagine 2026 - a copycat of a short document he created in Fort Smith called Vision 2023.

Brubaker then used the vague, 9-page Imagine 2026 document as an excuse to create a Long Range Planning Committee in mid-2022. This handpicked committee studied hundreds of millions of possible debt for residents to fund building projects that Brubaker had already planned. (Click here to read).

The farcical Long Range Planning Committee used a convoluted voting system that Doug Brubaker had perfected in Fort Smith. It allowed three ways for a committee member to vote "yes" on proposals and four ways to abstain - but only one way to vote "no" on a recommendation. The only "no" vote option was called a "block." You can read about Brubaker's unorthodox voting system by clicking here.

With an essentially rigged voting system, the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) voted to advance $189 million in spending to the TISD Board of Trustees. 

What is Doug Brubaker saying?

Superintendent Brubaker wants to clarify that it is not "his" proposal. He wants you to know this bond issue is what the people want.

He wants you to think that the public is clamoring to give him about $200 million of Texarkana citizens' hard-earned treasure. But they're not.

Brubaker said: "We are grateful to the Board, the more than 300 district stakeholders who contributed to the development of the district's new Imagine 2026 Strategic Plan, and the business and community leaders who carefully studied needs and prioritized projects over the summer as members of the Long Range Planning Committee."

What will we get for approx $200 million?

The bond package is split into two propositions, and voters may be surprised at how little they'll get for the massive expenditure.

Proposition A will cost at least $130,000,000 and includes a pre-kindergarten replacement school, a new elementary school, and renovations to Wake Village Elementary School - along with a couple of million dollars for new school buses. In addition, this proposition will raise property taxes in the district.

Proposition B will cost at least $59,000,000 and offers Career and Technical Education at the Texas High School campus. In addition, this proposition will raise property taxes in the district.

Property taxes have already increased dramatically

What makes the Texarkana ISD bond proposal stand out among other Texas bond elections is the greed of the TISD superintendent and the Board of Trustees.

TISD is not growing like most districts with large bond proposals. In fact, Texarkana ISD presented a document in May 2022 saying the district had actually lost 498 students (or 6.5% of students) in 2021/22. And the district expects to stay at approximately 7,250 students for the next two years (2022/23 to 2023/24) and then slowly decline each year to about 7,100 students in the 2031/32 school year, according to TISD's own demographic forecasts.

Moreover, home foreclosures are happening at an increasingly rapid rate among TISD property owners. Click here to see June, July, and August foreclosures for Bowie County.

And tax bills for every property owner in Bowie County have already increased significantly this year. Indeed, TISD reports that this year alone, its taxable value of properties had increased by 16.7% (or approx. $368 million). This means the total taxable property value for TISD in 2022/23 has risen to approximately $2.6 billion - yes, billion. But, apparently, that is not enough for them.

The money-hungry Superintendent and Board of Trustees still want more - in the form of about $200 million in new debt paid for by the hard work of current and future generations of Texarkana citizens who are already being hit from all sides with inflationary price increases. 

Now, citizens will decide when early voting begins on October 24, with Election Day on November 8, 2022.

Will smart voters allow this lunacy? Let's hope not.

Dig deeper: 

Click here to read: "Not counting nickels and dimes? Texarkana ISD massive $200 million bond proposal hits the wall with some voters after comments surface"

Click here to read: The secret history of the TISD bond issue

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