School funding, local and state officials are important decisions facing Dallas County voters on Election Day

By Nicole Scott, NDG Contributing Writer

If you have not registered to cast your vote in this year’s November elections then unfortunately you’ve ‘missed the boat’ so to speak.  The deadline to register for general elections was Tuesday, Oct. 9.  There had been much talk surrounding proposed voter ID laws, which many on the left side of the political spectrum asserted were aimed at suppressing voter turnout from the African-American, Latino and other disenfranchised communities.    However, after much debate there will not be any implentation of voter ID laws or voter purging.  In spite of an early attempt to do so prompted by a list generated by the Secretary of State’s Office of approximately 9,000 people purported to be dead.   Hundreds of upset voters contacted Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners’ office after they received a letter stating they might be dead and would be removed from the rolls if they did not respond within 30 days.

Although voter ID laws won’t be on this November’s ballots there are a host of other relevant issues will be on the ballot.  For a list of issues to be voted on you can visit www.dallascountyvotes.org.  Cities with bond initiatives on this year’s ballot include Dallas and Cedar Hill.  Cedar Hill’s Independent School District bond initiative pales in comparison to Dallas’ $600 million (See earlier article on Sept. 28 City of Dallas seeking voter approval on 2012 Capital Bond Program focused on basic needs) Cedar Hill’s City Council voted to include a bond election proposal totaling $45 million including the following:

  • $660,223 toward safety and security.  This includes upgrading burglar alarm systems, adding exterior security lighting and adding security cameras. A wrought iron fence will be installed at the back of Cedar Hill High School to secure the back entrance area.
  • $5,270,243 in technology upgrades.  This includes green computing upgrades, phone system upgrades, UPS upgrades and a projector, interactive board and document camera for all classrooms district-wide.
  • $39,069,532 for facility upgrades and renovations.  This includes roof replacements, HVAC replacements, energy management systems and upgrades and renovations to every campus in Cedar Hill ISD.

The bond package is comprised of suggestions from community members of Cedar Hill as well as parents and CHISD employees.  Funding for the bond will come from $8.9 million in Qualified School Construction Bonds; a federally funded program will allow Cedar Hill ISD to sell a portion of the bond at zero percent interest.  Five-year, short-term notes will underwrite technology upgrades and equipment and ten-year bonds will underwrite technology infrastructure costs amongst other items.  If the initiative passes home owners with a house of a taxable value of $100,000 will pay $7.08 more per month in taxes.  However in 2019 when short-term bonds are paid off those taxes are expected to drop to $.4.74 less per month.

This is not the first time Cedar Hill ISD (CHISD) has put forth a bond initiative on the ballots.  Last year CHISD sought a similar bond election totaling $53.5 million which voters rejected.  CHISD’s Chief Financial Officer Mike McSwain says if this year’s bond package is not passed the staff will continue to spend time and money fixing declining facilities and technology using funds from its operating fund maintenance and operations budget; funds which are allocated towards operating expenses, instructional programs and salaries.

Another important issue voters will be deciding on next month is who will sit on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE).  As a result of redistricting all 15 seats are up for election.  SBOE elections are extremely crucial, especially to African-Americans and all those parents whose children are educated in the public school system.  The SBOE determines what your children will be learning from history to sex education.  Any parent or educator should be paying special attention to these elections, particularly District 15, as it comprises the largest area covering all of northwestern Texas and is heavily Republican populated.  Just some of the cities included in District 15 include Amarillo, Midland, Lubbock, Stratford and Gainesville.

Of course voters will be casting their vote for the Commander in Chief but also included in the upcoming elections are Statewide and County Offices.  This includes your Congressman/woman, District Judges as well as District Attorneys, State Representatives, County Commissioners and Sheriffs.  It is extremely important when casting your vote to be knowledgeable of those offices which impact your daily lives but often times are not considered when it comes to voting.  Just one example of this is the Justice for the 5th District Court of Appeals, a court that hears civil and criminal appeals cases for six counties including Dallas.    Currently this court consists of all Republican justices.  Democrats Tonya J. Holt, Penny R. Phillips, David Hanschen, Dan Wood and Lawrence J. Praeger all are vying for a seat on this court.  Their election could not only bring diversity to the court but also a change in the outcome of important cases.

If you haven’t kept abreast with who is running for what and what impact these offices will have on your future it’s still not too late.  Some helpful and highly informative websites you can visit include www.dallasdemocrats.org, www.dallascountyvotes.org, www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us and www.tfn.org.  Educate yourselves and those surrounding you and vote smart.

First Day of Early Voting: Monday, Oct. 22
Last Day of Early Voting: Friday, Nov. 2

Election Day: Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 – Polls are open 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Remember:
If you vote on Election Day, you must vote in the polling place designated for your precinct.

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