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Hays Free Press
Kyle, Texas
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February 6, 2003     Hays Free Press
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February 6, 2003
 

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Page 4 The Free Press Editorial Page February 6, 2003 Shaking the foundation of our county government Arguments For and Against "_ ast week, by a split 3-2 1-vote, our Commissioners Court took a gigantic step. With almost no advance warn- ing and without any discus- sion during our long election campaign of last year, it great- ly altered the structure of county government. Their creation of the office of county administrator changes the way county gov- ernment has been adminis- tered in Hays County since 1848, when less than 50 resi- dents of the newly created county chose Henry Cheatham " as "chief justice" and four other men as county commis- sioners. Judge Cheatham and his cohorts were the only civil government that existed in the county and they were paid for their services, as were the sheriff and county clerk and other elected officials. Later in the century, when public schools were organized and city governments were created for San Marcus and Kyle, a different form of gov- ernment was created, with the boards of trustees and the city councils serving in an unpaid capacity. The only paid staff were the teachers in the schools and a handful of cleri- cal workers in city govern- ment For the first. 100 years of county government the com- missioners court was com- posed of members who con- sidered their governmental duties to be part-time and they were paid accordingly. During the past 30 or 40 years the county has grown larger and the duties of coun- ty court have increased enor- mously, spreading to include environmental, economic and social service decisions and members have grown to right- fully expect to be paid full time salaries. There has been some dem- agoging at election time and some broken pledges concern- ing refusal to accept pay rais- es, but that's not a phe- nonenom that is restricted to this county alone. In recent years the pay has been increased considerably and the commissioners now receive more than $50,000 a year in salary and travel allowances while the county judge is paid almost $70,000. At the same time school board members continue to receive just what they got a hundred years ago-nothing. City council members in San Marcus and Buda and other county towns get reimbursed for expenses 0nly and in Kyle they receive a flat $100 a month while the Mayor is paid a mere $200 per month. Of course those positions are not full-time although dur- ing budget times and periods of heavy controversy, consci- entious members of school boards and city councils spend a considerable amount of time in public service. They are occasionally rewarded with kind words and expressions of appreciation from their constituents, but normally the body politic dishes out a lot more com- plaints than praise. That's the nature of the American elec- torate and anyone who can't live with that basic inequity needs not run for public office On the other hand, when it comes to county government, voters are justified in raising Cain in dealing with the folks who are well paid for the job they are performing. We pay our county court pretty well. Particularly in these troubled economic times, that's an amount higher than 90 percent of our Hays County work force is earning. A case can be made for hir- ing someone like Allen Walther as county administra- tor. He has been a valuable employee of the county for nearly 20 years and most unbiased observers feel that he has been a good environ- mental health director. But that's not really the issue. If we are going to shift the job of supervising the operation from the county judge to an non-elected execu- tive, regardless of his or her competence, there should be considerable dialogue and debate. This county just went through a spirited general election. Two of the commis- sioner's seats and the county judgeship were contested by challengers That would have been a perfect opportunity for discussion and debate about the merits of changing the duties of the county judge. The role of county govern- ment is changing, and to be frank, it is diminishing in a suburban county like Hays. For most of our history at least 60 percent of the people lived in the rural areas of the coun- ty and county govermnent was the place where they turned for help. Now nearly 65 percent of our population dwells within the boundaries of a city and that is where most of the folks look for remedies and aid, particularly when it comes to zoning, parks, elementary law enforcement and. traff'tc con- trol Without sufficient notice, the majority of the court insti- tuted a major administrative change. We commend Commissioners Debbie County Governing, pg. 5 Low interest lotms m everything that moves New or Used Cars and Trucks New or Used Boats and RVs For Fast, Personal Service, Call Us/ FIR00'00T , 700e00,rlca 11 BANK = ember Texas Owned. Texas Strong. Texas Proud li=[ FDIC www.fabtexas.com ]abe" helped gave up (2 wdsl) d this female 44 __ Park, TX olf org. (abbr.) 45 _ Leon, TX ,tin' or brandin' 46 7-1t's "Big __ :a Co. seat 47 Gov. Richards and -n: "he's _ TX actress Harding he squeaks 48 avoidable he walks" 51 TXism:" pen" )aked (hospital) o book: "13 52 Abilene univ. (abbr.) __ Glory 53 TX-sized phone co. lary Kay Ash's poodle ;enton directed Kramer" id )S m: uripe and 54 dir. to (e it" Beaumont ch Davidians from Dallas 3 DOWN boy, Troy 1 TXism: "couldn't mn carried lick his upper " ets __ __ (weak) igs on the farm 2 28-across as a QB ikman throw 3 ex-Ranger hurler m: "he's an "Goose" __ at it" 4 community school arienced) in "Alamo City": 'Bum" Phillips San m: "if it ain't there ain't __ 8 a "IX Janis Joplin __ in TX" group: 'Full- Robert _ __ Boogie Band" m:" pilot" 9 TXism: "so __ .cher) 'igua Indian are sprinkling" rvation event: t0 Alpine h.s. class dance 11 Yvette who starred m: "never in with TX Tommy q Lee in "Jackson r seen it) County Jail" (init.) 12 sacrifice desires 13 TX ZZ Top album: Hombres 14 TX Motor Speed- way track shape 15 what Cowboys or Texans didn't cross much in '02 (2 wds.) 16 Dallas news AM 17 TXism: " a mother-in-law on a long visit" 19 TXism: " yourself up by the bootstraps" 21 "fixes" a dog 22 Gov. Preston ('68-72) (init.) 'I'IEXA00 CROSSWORD by Charley & Guy Orbison 54 | 23 TXism: "run __ _ white flag" 24 classic western: "The __ Star" 25 horse gaits 26 TX Gene Autry's 'That Silver- __ Daddy of Mine" Copyright 2003 by Orbison Bro. 47 I  P-.51 P classic car plate: "1 31 TXism: "got _ of corn to shuck" 34 intl. boxing org. 35 TXism: "put on the feed bag" 37 cut lumber 40 TXism: "now you've gone and __ it" 42 popular recreational vehicle (abbr.) 43 Gov. Pease 49 extremely sharp 50 TX Kowalski, director of "I'V's "Baretta" (init.) Hays CISD Bond Package 2003 Let's meet the demands of the future today BY CARL HALL Hays High School Principal he purpose of this column is not to oppose the $104.5 million bond package that will build and improve much needed schools in Hays CISD, but to state how the passing of the bond will positively affect us here at Hays High School. At the present, Hays High School is a hodge-podge of old buildings that once served the district as the junior high, high school and central administra- tion many years ago. As the dis- trict grew, the junior high and central administration were moved to new locations and some new buildings were added to the cluster of buildings to meet different education and program demands. At the pre- sent, Hays High School ranges over some 103 acres. Our stu- dents change classes seven times a day with a seven-minute pass- ing period to move from class to class. This is the only high school I have ever been associat- ed with that has such a long passing period, however, it is needed so our students can trav- el the distances and be on time to class. Even with the lengthy passing periods, tardies are still our number one problem. Then, there is the inclement weather. Students are expected to travel from class to class when it is raining, lightning, cold or hot. In 1994 a student was struck by lightning while changing classes. Fortunately the student survived, but each time it rains and lightning occurs, we fear something tragic could happen. Most of our students have learned to carry umbrellas (not much help in a lightning storm) and have learned routes to class- es that avoid mud holes. I think you get the picture -- if not, please ask any student that attends Hays High what it is like when the weather is bad. Another concern is the size of our cafeteria. We currently have three lunches between 11:35 a.m. and 2:10 p.m., to serve 2,300 students, an average of 766-plus students in each lunch period in a cafeteria Pro-School Bond, pg. 5 Bonds or Education? h does not require a majori- ty to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in peoples minds. --Samuel Adams CO-AUTHORED BY BRYCE BALES AND TOMMY SEARGEANT Ex-School Board Members hY are the 2003 bonds bad for education? For every dollar spent on bond pay- ments, this is a dollar not avail- able for the instruction pro- gram. According to Comptroller Strayhorn's School District Watch List, Hays' ranks in the bottom six percent of districts in the percentage of the budget committed to the instructional program at 43.4%. This means for every dollar spent, only forty three cents get to the class- room! We think instruction is where the priority should be at Hays-not fancy facilities in an attempt to keep up with Eanes.This means less money is available for teacher salary enhancements above state mini- mum salary scales, teacher health benefits and supplies. This may help explain why the teacher turnover rate from 2001-2002 was 17.8%. According to the Texas Education Agency's Academic Excellence Indicator System, from 2001-2002, for every six new students, the district hired one new full time equivalent employee. We can't keep this up. While districts such as Boerne, Drippings Springs, Mugerville, Georgetown, and Bastrop have grown as fast or faster than Hays CISD, their debt per student is half or less than that of Hays'. Hays' growth during the period, 19962001, was 29.45% and our debt per student was $21,553 ranking Hays ninth highest in debt per student for Texas's 1,034 districts as of August 31, 2001 per the Texas Bond Review Board. If the $104.5 million in bonds are sold, Hays CI$13 will rank third or fourth statewide in highest debt per student. This is a hard way to attract business and, if .known, has the potential to drive off prospective new homeowners as well. In the November 29th edi- tion of the Austin American Statesman, the headline article on the upcoming bond measure said "Blame it on Growth". This article also stated enrollments will double in five years to over 16,192 students. To achieve this feat will require compounded annual growth of 13.4% per year. We grew by less than 7% this year. This is very optimistic crystal ball gazing and finan- cially risky since most of our state revenue is tied to average daily attendance and state rev- enue per student is declining. If the students don't come, the debt still must be paid. Hays High School will reduce from the present enroll- ment of 2,278 to 1,591, a reduc- tion of over 687 students. They are asking for another $18.42 million for 1,179 student Lchman. Yes, this new bond proposition is asking us to approve another $45.14 million for the two high schools, $18.42 million at Lehman and $26.72 million at Hays High School. Combined with the funds spent during the 200I bonds- $50.35 million budgeted, this will mean over $95.49 million for an enrollment increase from October 2000 to 2004 of only 708 students! We could have built three or four new high schools for this amount of money or nine elementary and a couple of middle schools as well! (Not with the present architects.) What are we think- ing? Simply put, we are not get- ting enough additional capacity from the funds we have spent and from the proposed new bonds. This is why our debt per student is so high. Our neighbors in the eastern side of the district need not worry. When Tobias opens, additional capacity for 800 stu- dents will relieve the pressure on the other elementary schools in the area. There is always time to come back with another bond issue, We are for neighborhood schools when the time comes. We will also support bond funds for covering walkways and the mall outside the original high school and reasonable renova- tions at Hays High School, but we would like to .be given an opportunity to do so on a propo- sition basis. We believe we need to retain structurally sound buildings and to consolidate administrations wherever possi- ble to free up more money for classroom instruction.