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EPISD empty political promises in focus at Tuesday meeting

Board reneges on police chief job for Crestino Ynosencio; Also prepares to shaft teachers on pay raises again this year

What a difference the unfavorable outcome of a county judge election can have on the empty political promises made to EPISD employees during the heat of the campaign and vote buying activities through the liberal misuse of taxpayers’ money.

With Rudy Bowles having lost the May 22 runoff to incumbent county judge David R. Saucedo, the first to learn the political promises made to him had been flushed down the toilet was interim EPISD police chief Crestino Ynosencio but teachers, who were promised the moon and stars just before the county judge runoff election, are now being set up to be slapped across the face this summer with a bigger insult than they were last year.

Highlighting the regular monthly meeting on Tuesday night was an executive session discussion on the recommendation of superintendent Gilberto Gonzalez for the hiring of a permanent chief of police. Leading up to the county judge election the job was in the bag for Ynosencio who even threw a rib-eye steak “pachanga” for his favorite officers, administrators and board members right before the county judge election.

Tuesday night after a marathon closed-door session that lasted over an hour, trustees flatly rejected superintendent Gonzalez’ recommendation letting the issue die without even making a motion.

Perhaps it is posturing but reportedly there exists an audio recording during the execution of political scheme to demote ex chief Jose Ramos on which the job is promised to Ynosencio. Also, usually reliable sources say Ynosencio met with school board president Lupita Fuentes over the weekend to try to salvage his politically promised job but without success.

Ramos was demoted by superintendent Gilberto Gonzalez all the way down to patrolman from chief of police just two days after the March 6 primary and despite having received two separate, publicly disseminated, written commendations from the Superintendent for his work within two weeks prior to his politically motivated demotion. EPISD insiders were quick to justify Ramos’ demotion as warranted by accusing him of campaigning for Saucedo on company time. In May Ramos grievance over his demotion went to the School Board and with a cryptic motion the Board reinstated the ex Chief of Police’s $80,000 to $90,000 salary but apparently did not reinstate him to his position. Ramos’s attorney Claudio Heredia asked for clarification as to the meaning of the motion and was told EPISD attorney Richard Strieber would meet with him after the meeting adjourned to explain.

It is unknown at this time whether legal issues have caused the school district to proceed cautiously or to abandon their politically motivated plan to punish employees through intimidation.

For a number of years now Ynosencio has worked to undermine the EPISD police department with school board members and successfully got two police chiefs reassigned to pave the road for his succession to the throne. Fuentes was involved in both of these shakeups in the police department.

More disturbing than one person being shafted on his politically promised payoff, EPISD deputy superintendent of finance Ismael Mijares was again called upon to talk cash surpluses, but this month is singing his oldie but goodie “hit song” of gloom and doom in very sharp contrast to the tune he was singing just a month ago.

School board president Fuentes interrupted the May 8 board meeting to conduct a political rally for Bowles before a packed house of students, educators and parents who were on hand to celebrate academic and related accomplishments of hundreds of students. Fuentes called upon Mijares to talk cash surpluses available for salary raises and the EPISD deputy superintendent for “bean counting” dutifully responded to his cue in the political scheme. Mijares announced to the packed auditorium, “At this time I would like to inform the Board that it looks good or even better than previous years as a reflection of all working together. The district is in position for available funding for salaries to all employees, even to teachers, because the numbers look really, really good.” Mijares was unable to contain his engrained disdain for the work teachers produce in the classroom and that is directly responsible for the success of EPISD.

Fast forward a month later and after the political debacle of the EPISD board and administration political machine failing to win the county judge seat, Mijares has now reverted back to his traditional annual “hit song” of doom and gloom all for the benefit of shortchanging teachers and other staff on salary hikes while giving administrators, including himself, huge raises. This time it was trustee Jorge Barrera who called upon Mijares to dispel “perceptions out there” that EPISD is swimming in an ocean of cash surpluses while poor taxpayers are drowning in excessive taxation and losing their family homes.

On cue again, Mijares told the Board his monthly accounting reports on the current budget and how it will affect fund balances “are very simple” and indeed these reports are very simple to understand. In his presentation however, Mijares steered the Board away from the obvious in a deliberate effort to mislead or lie to both the Board and taxpaying public at large. Mijares focused on this year’s spending plan being a more than $6-million deficit budget due to construction projects for sports facilities and fancy new offices for EPISD administration. And Mijares added a new twist to his “boy who cried wolf way too many times” lyrics creating a second and new page of information to indicate that according to a standard for “optimum fund balances” recommended, but not required, by the Texas Education Agency — EPISD was $5.5-million below this optimum standard at the end of the last fiscal year on August 31, 2017 and that by the end of the current fiscal year which ends August 31, 2018, EPISD will be an incredible $50.2-million below the optimum standard recommended by TEA to hoard as a cash surplus.

While board members are content to cast themselves as ignorant of the EPISD’s finances, along with this exclusive news story the Eagle Pass News Leader is publishing the Mijares accounting of the current budget, which as he has told board members is “very simple to understand.” In this one-page accounting, Mijares has funded expenditures of $168.8-million this year, but “year to date” accounting through the heavy spending of first nine months of the school year reveals total expenses will come in at less than $146.2-million thus generating a cash surplus just during the 2017-18 fiscal year of $22.6-million. Adding the $22.6 million to be generated this year to Mijares’ overly pessimistic projection of ending the fiscal year in August with just a $19.2-million surplus the actual cash hoard in just 2-1/2 months is going to swell to $41.8-million. In future years, without the Board and administration squandering tens of millions off on sports arenas and fancy offices for themselves the annual cash surpluses that will be generated will be around $35-million each and every year.

While Mijares and the 2017 independent financial audit peg the cash surplus last year at $25.8-million, readers’ attention is directed to the bottom of this accounting page where it is clearly stated that EPISD was sitting on a grand total of cash on August 31, 2017 of $43,222,522! And during the budget adoption process last year Mijares misinformed the Board and public about the $25.8-million surplus, understating it by $7-million at $18.8-million. For more detail-oriented readers you can go line item by line item of Mijares’ spending projections and see how much he has padded the budget in each category in order to create cash surpluses. This is not saving — this is lying!

While they may wish to claim ignorance is bliss, all the EPISD school board members are in active collusion with administration in lying to the public about the District’s true financial condition. Board members are fully aware Mijares has hid cash surpluses for years as he confessed to the sin in a memo first penned to superintendent Gilberto Gonzalez in October 2016 and only shared with the Board in June of 2017 when administration was asking for Board approval to construct their new fancy offices. The Eagle Pass News Leader publishes this incriminating memo here for the benefit of readers. The bulk of this additional $7-million hidden by Mijares was accomplished by over funding self insurance accounts that are accounted for separately and supposed to be restricted, but as soon as administration started dreaming about fancy new offices for themselves, Mijares magically made the money reappear and this current school board had no problem with this. So at the end of 2016 fiscal year EPISD was hoarding almost $32-million in cash and these secret internal service accounts are still being over funding to date to hide millions of dollars.

Certainly duping the unsuspecting taxpayers is a goal in this scheme, but more importantly this school board and EPISD administration want to lie to teachers and other school employees so they can shortchange them on raises while giving huge and undeserved raises to themselves. After promising decent raises to teachers last year if they would vote to increase taxes, administration and the Board reneged giving teachers just $1,500. Mijares and his brother Samuel took about $6,200 raises each and unbelievably the School Board gave superintendent Gilberto Gonzalez a $25,000 raise making his salary now $190,000 plus a $2,000 a year stipend for local (in district) travel. With a cash surplus fund balance of at least almost $42-million this year the sky is the limit for how large will be the pay raises given to superintendent Gilberto Gonzalez and deputy superintendents Ismael and Samuel Mijares this year by the current school board.

At Tuesday’s meeting superintendent Gonzalez announced he and all seven board members would be off Thursday for one of their annual taxpayer-funded, weekend, high-rolling junkets to San Antonio. Shortly after they return the summer will be consumed with a series of workshops and meetings to adopt next year’s budget. Teachers and taxpayers would be well advised to make their voices heard during these meetings so the dishonesty that has prevailed for far too long comes to a halt this year.

Additionally, this summer on July 23 registration opens for a place on the ballot for school board elections in November, and armed with the truth of what Gilberto Gonzalez’ cabinet has been doing, a formidable slate of candidates is expected to come forward to contest current school board members Lupita Fuentes, Rudy Bowles and Hilda Martinez Caballero. Gonzalez’ and the School Board’s boasting of their work as a cabinet sure does sound like a “cosa nostro” or “mafia” determined to continue to prey off of swindled taxpayers and employees. This should provide teachers with extra punch to push for a $6,000 raise this year and to force the Board to nix any raises for the greedy top administrators. A drastically changed makeup of the school board could open up criminal investigations with an independent counsel or through TEA, not just on financial irregularities but other ethics and legal violations as well.


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