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Bru-BEGGAR: Texarkana ISD and Doug Brubaker plead for $189 million in new taxes from struggling citizens while local companies may see little to no benefit from huge spending

Nov 7, 2022

When Bowie County officials mailed tax notices to property owners a few weeks ago, the mood among many shifted decidedly downward. 

This was because many citizens suddenly realized that paying large amounts by the end of the year was impossible for them - unless they skipped a house payment or cut back on food and gas.

At the same time, Texarkana ISD is asking voters to fund its entire $189 million wishlist with an ill-timed bond election - for an amount more than six and a half times greater than TISD's largest ever bond election. 

Rough economic waters

Tough financial choices are being made every day. In fact, a TISD homeowner named Trae quietly told Texarkana News about his family's food struggles at a Texarkana Wal-Mart store. He said he was embarrassed his family had been forced to stop buying wheat bread for $3.34 and now purchases what he calls "the Great Value dollar white bread." But he was shocked that even the "dollar bread" had already increased in price by 10% since he bought it last week.

The Texarkana father said his family could no longer afford to eat out - even at McDonald's. He said: "A large cola at McDonald's is now about $2.00 with tax, and they were just one dollar a few weeks ago. So we've cut back everything and still can't make ends meet. So I'm looking for a second job."

Not the right time for $189 million in spending

What does Trae think about Supt. Doug Brubaker and TISD asking for $189 million ($365 million with amortized interest) right now.?

He said: "I see those d**m signs saying 'Vote for the Kids' and these guys begging for money so they can build a bunch of new buildings when everybody else has to cut back because of all the inflation. How does that even make sense?"

Trae is not alone. We talked with Walmart employees, and several told us that Texarkana customers come in more often and make smaller purchases - as discretionary spending has rapidly dwindled.

A Walmart security associate said: "There are lots and lots of people struggling. But others are doing fine, and their biggest problem is the shortage of  Milky Way [candy bars]. But I feel sorry for guests who can't afford inexpensive necessities, and I give people some coins if they need a little bit to check out. But not every associate can afford to do that."

Bad news for local companies

Superintendent Doug Brubaker and TISD have been stealthily moving forward with their plans for the 2022 bond election for more than a year and a half. But, sadly, it is amid the most significant increase in construction costs in most citizens' lifetimes.

But with all this planning, where is the promise to spend a certain percentage of the money locally? Other school districts with bond elections promise to hire local firms. Why not TISD?

Unfortunately, whether TISD will offer local companies a fair chance to bid for bond election contracts is unclear. Sure, there will probably be a little spending locally. But where will the mega-millions go? That's the real question.

Citizens should also ask if companies chosen by TISD will be strongly encouraged (or required) to hire workers living in Texarkana before bringing in laborers from across the region or nation? Of course, companies should be directed to hire locals first. It's the right thing to do.

Plus, keeping as much spending as possible within the city is supremely important because Texarkana, Texas, citizens expect and deserve to have as much of the massive $189 million as possible stay here.

The usual suspects

It seems likely that Texarkana will see itself invaded by the same educational-building companies that appear to have a monopoly on school-building projects across the region if the bond election is approved by voters.

Yet, simultaneously, there is a real possibility that TISD will squander millions of dollars on vaguely worded "project costs" and construction management firms.

Why do we believe this? First, it aligns with what happened when Doug Brubaker was superintendent in Fort Smith, Arkansas. On June 3, 2022, Texarkana News reported that local firms in Fort Smith felt duped by the school district in the Doug Brubaker-led $100 million plus bond election. Click here to read the whole story.

Likewise, the Texarkana bond election process has almost been a carbon copy of what happened in Fort Smith while Brubaker was superintendent. Click here to read "The Secret History of the TISD bond election" from June 13, 2022. 

Voters can stop the madness

What will happen if the TISD bond election fails and voters stop the $189 million in spending before it starts?

Fort Smith insiders tell us that Doug Brubaker will never quit with a loss. As a result, Texarkana ISD voters might expect a more modest bond election proposal in May 2023 or November 2023 - depending on how big of a loss TISD faced in the November 8, 2022 election.

In the meantime, Texarkana voters, such as hardworking father Trae, will be looking for a second - and possibly third - job. And if the TISD bond election passes, Trae and others like him will likely be left wondering why $189 million in spending is not creating jobs and economic growth for companies in Texarkana.

No doubt, just about everyone else in Texarkana, Texas - not named Doug Brubaker - will be wondering the same thing. 

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