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McAllen ISD’s $297 million bond

By G. Romero Wendorf
In last week’s Observations Column (front page; 4-8-15), McAllen attorney and former candidate for District 1 city commissioner Javier Villalobos said he was going to go on the offensive against McAllen ISD’s bid to pass a $297 million bond May 9th. “I hear a few bleeding hearts talking about the children,” he said last week. “What I say is, ‘Hey, let’s consider the entire family.’ Because if the home is foreclosed on because the family can’t pay the taxes, what happens to the children then?” This week, Villalobos filed a lawsuit Monday against the district, on behalf of three clients  who accuse McAllen ISD ofusing the district’s own campaign materials, AKA, taxpayer dollars, school facilities and school staff to help promote bond passage. On his Facebook page,  Villalobos wrote Monday:“Thanks to my clients for having the courage to stand against injustices happening right under our noses. Hopefully this will relieve our teachers from the relentless push from administrators to push the bond.” Villalobos’ lawsuit is set for a hearing this Thursday afternoon at 3:30 in Hidalgo County Courtat- law No. 5. His three clients named on the suit: George Rivas Ralph Flores and Rubi Lozano. To help ensure passage of the $297 million bond, supporters have set up a PAC (Transform McAllen Political Action Committee), whichhas an estimated budget of  approximately $75,000. It toutsthe benefits of bond passage on its own website: www. But the lawsuit filed by Villalobos this Monday maintains that McAllen ISD is doing a sleight of hand, using district resources, school facilities, taxpayer money, district personnel, including principals, to promote the bond   from the inside out, including he district’s own website: By phone this week, Villalobos said, “If you notice in the lawsuit, my clients are not asking for any money, no legal reimbursements.” Nor are Villalobos’ clientsasking that the bond election be halted.  “All we want is for the district to stop campaigning in favor of the bond.” According to the attorney,  he has a stack of emails from teachers, some principals, who say they are tired of being pressured to support the bond, get out the vote, that sort of thing. “What they’re doing is criminal in nature,” Villalobos said. “But you’ll notice in the lawsuit, we didn’t name anyone. We’re not after anyone. We just want the district to stop  iolating election law. Stoppressuring school personnel to get out the vote.”  If approved by voters, a17-cent per $100 property  valuation would be added to the district’s current tax rate of $1.17. For a home valued at $100,000, the extra 17 cents equates to an additional $170 per year. In last week’s story,  however, Villalobos claimed that the district has plans for November to host a Tax  Ratification Election (TRE), which would bump up advalorem taxes even more. Earlier this week, McAllen  ISD issued a public statement, refuting the lawsuit’s allegations, maintaining that  it had followed proper bondelection protocol, backed up by legal advice, ever since the campaign to pass it first began  earlier this year.Villalobos’ lawsuit, in  essence, is asking the county court-at-law judge to grant a temporary restraining order(TRO), forcing the district and  its administrative staff to playa strict neutral role in this bond  election moving forward.“They can inform people about the bond election, but they can’t advocate in favor of it,” Villalobos said. The lawsuit doesn’t at all pertain to calling off the May 9th bond election. One example of alleged illegalities, according to the lawsuit, can be seen on the district’s very own website – – where links to pro-bond editorials and letters published in the local daily newspaper appear. “But it sure doesn’t  include any of the negative letters,” he said. According to the lawsuit, McAllen ISD has also sent “unlawful emails” to parents, and “unlawful banners have been placed in schools around the district.” Those banners, as spelled  out in the lawsuit, “promote the passage of the bonds yet do  otz state who paid for the banners. If the defendant (McAllen ISD) paid for them, then that would constitute misuse of public funds," said Villalobos. “If the (Transform McAllen) PAC paid for the banners, then it is an ethical violation as the public does not know who paid for the literature and it should not be (on) school property.” Villalobos and his three clients claim that “school administrators during working hours have been contacting parents to assist in registering of parents to vote in the upcomingelection.” And even if McAllen ISD isn’t expressly stating that the voter registration is to help pass the bond, the intent is obvious, says the attorney. In essence, said Villalobos, what his clients are seeking is a TRO that will stop the schooldistrict and its administrative staff from violating election laws (allegedly) by campaigning in favor of the bond, either on school property or on school time or with the use of school monies. On top of that, said Villalobos, the matter of realestate acquisitions is also of concern. According to the lawsuit, the $297 million bond addresses five issues: 21st century education, safety and security, exterior, interior and mechanical. “And yet,” said Villalobos, “if you look close enough,the resolution (passed earlier this year by the school board) calling for the bond allows for the purchase of real estate.” Meaning, “The issue of whose property is purchased, who brokers the deal, and the price of any real estate arealmost always detrimental to a school district.”  


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