Excessive taxation and cash surplus hoarding to blame
EAGLE PASS, TX - According to the regular quarterly report on tax collection activities submitted to the EPISD school board at the May 8 meeting, during just the first three months of 2018 (January to March) the school district has confiscated 17 properties from taxpayers who fell behind in paying the excessive taxes levied by EPISD. These properties could be hitting the auction block at the Maverick County courthouse steps in the near future.
At this rate 68 properties will be seized from private owners this year alone as EPISD administration and school board embarks on a scheme to build massive unused and not needed cash surpluses on their financial books. As of August of last year EPISD was sitting on almost $26-million in cash reserves and a quick review of ongoing spending and revenues during the current budget cycle reveals that by August of 2018, just a little over three months away, this cash surplus will have swelled to $42-million. At the current rate of over taxation the EPISD cash surplus is expected to grow to $111-million by the year 2021 and continue to balloon from there.
Despite having a $25-million cash surplus on hand EPISD administration and school board chose to raise taxes last year by an additional estimated $14-million.
This excessive taxation and building of huge unnecessary cash surpluses by EPISD administration and school board is having some impact upon the election for Maverick County currently in the early voting stage at the Multi-Purpose Center in Fort Duncan Park and is already influencing upcoming elections for new EPISD trustees in November with registrations for three school board positions to open in late July. These three positions are currently held by board president Lupita Fuentes who has been on the board for over 14 years most in the capacity as president of the board, vice president Hilda Martinez Caballero and Rudy Bowles. Win or lose for county judge Bowles will not be seeking reelection and Martinez Caballero has publicly given every indication she too no longer wants to be a part of the school board. Fuentes is expected to seek reelection and it is not known at this time who will be recruited to round out the EPISD administration’s political faction ticket for November.
Representing EPISD in seizing properties from private owners is attorney Sonia Gonzalez, daughter of Robert and Ana Gonzalez, active strategists and political promoters in Maverick County. Currently Gonzalez, her parents and indeed her entire extended family are the principal backers and promoters of school board member Rudy Bowles’ ambitions to step up the political ladder to county judge.
Roberto Gonzalez is an ex school board member from over 30 years ago who felt first-hand the backlash from voters because of over taxation resulting in confiscating properties by EPISD. Back in those days a sizeable ranchito was seized by EPISD for unpaid taxes and Gonzalez and another school board member partnered to purchase the confiscated ranch for just pennies on the dollar at the courthouse steps. Soon afterwards at his reelection bid Gonzalez was trounced by voters protesting excessive taxation from EPISD that was resulting in owners losing their investments.
Before the May 8 meeting of the EPISD school board the excessive over taxation and massive cash surpluses being built had gone on largely hidden from public view. But at that meeting board president Fuentes, trustee Bowles, and administrators superintendent Gilbert Gonzalez and deputy superintendent of finance “bean counter” Ismael Mijares hatched a plot to turn the meeting into a political rally for Rudy Bowles for County Judge campaign which in turn focused this news outlet’s attention to EPISD finances.
The script written for the political rally was for Fuentes to call on Mijares to give a brief update on what the budget preparation process this summer might look like. Cued to action, Mijares jumped to the podium to say revenues and expenditures were “looking really, really good” and that raises would be likely be possible this year “even for teachers.” The third scene of the play had superintendent Gonzalez bolting from his seat to set up a stage and microphone for Rudy Bowles to deliver the closing act of making new but noncommittal promises of raises for EPISD employees “including teachers” with the subtle implication provided they all vote his way for county judge.
All in all the show was quite well orchestrated but Mijares’ stumbling with his rehearsed lines unraveled the intention to sneak what was really just a political rally by keen observers.
The most damning revelations in the despicable hijacking of a school board meeting and the large audience gathered to celebrate and honor exceptional EPISD students, was that Bowles, administration, and the school board made these same empty political promises last year when they were promoting a tax increase to voters while hiding the fact EPISD already had $25-million in cash parked away.
Once the $14-million in new taxes were approved Bowles, Fuentes, the school board and administration forgot their campaign promises to teachers, employees and students’ academics preferring to budget spending money on special interests including unfair high raises for superintendent Gonzalez and deputy superintendents Ismael and Samuel Mijares, and for luxurious expensive new offices for top administrators and for sports and athletics including two new field houses, locker room improvements and a soon to be approved refurbishing of the virtually unused old Eagle Field on Del Rio Blvd.
Whether the excessive over taxation and huge cash surplus hoarding effects the outcome of the current Maverick County judge election or elections for school board members in November, one thing is certain this action will remain controversial and important for many years, if not forever.