Rio Hondo residents unhappy about election turnout for $20M school borrowing

RIO HONDO — Diana Bates was thanking the Delta Kappa Gamma ladies group the same day other people were heading to the polls in the May 7 election.

The Deltas had helped her raise monies for three scholarships handed out to Rio Hondo graduating seniors through the Lois Bates Scholarship Fund, which is named after a former district teacher who passed away in 2007.

Bates, 63, a Rio Hondo resident for more than 20 years, said had she known there was a $20 million school bond proposal on the ballot she would have voted early.

She said she and other voters are upset and looking into challenging the outcome of the $20 million bond election on the basis she believes the majority of taxpayers were not adequately informed about the bond election.

“Twenty million in bonds is a huge amount of money,” Bates said “How can 80 people make this decision when it’s going to affect the community for generations to come?”

Rio Hondo voters passed the $20 million proposal 80-42.

According to the Cameron County Elections Department the City of Rio Hondo had 1,474 registered voters eligible to vote in the May 7 election.

Rio Hondo Superintendent Ismaiel Garcia emailed a response to the Valley Morning Star about the challenge of the bond election.

“The district is pleased with the results of the May 7, 2016, bond election and is looking forward to implementing the project of building a new middle school for our students,” Garcia stated. “The district is confident that it has complied with all aspects of the law throughout the bond election process.”

The Rio Hondo School Board of Trustees held a special meeting on Feb. 15 to order the bond election for May 7.

The bond election authorizes the school district to issue bonds for various purposes, including the construction, acquisition and equipping of school buildings and the purchase of the necessary sites for school buildings.

According to the election code, notice for the election must be given by mail, published in the newspaper and posted in a public place at least once not earlier than the 30th day or later than the 10th day before Election Day.

The district published a notice for the bond election in the San Benito News in April, and posted the order at a public place in Rio Hondo continuously through Election Day.

The calculated amount of the debt is $18.3 million, and the amount of interest is $7.8 million for the bond.

The ad valorem debt service tax rate for the district is 20 cents per $100 of taxable assessed valuation. There was no information located about what the new tax rate will be now the bond has been approved.

Bates is not the only voter in the community who isn’t pleased with the results of the bond election.

Rio Hondo resident Margarita Greer, 63, wants to know why the district needs another campus.

Greer said she is upset the district didn’t inform the community about the bond election as well as it could have.

“I heard about the bond that same week, and then on Monday I found out it had already been voted on and passed,” Greer said. “It makes me wonder how many people knew the bond election was going to happen that day.”

Greer said in the past she has been aware of the school district holding meetings about bond elections to inform the public and get community input.

She said that wasn’t the case in this election.

“It’s a little too late now,” Greer said. “I would just like to know what the purpose is of having a new campus.”