Who is behind the Leander ISD Bond Election?

 

Growing LISDs Future recently pushed a $454,400,000.00 bond measure on homeowners and taxpayers in Leander, Cedar Park, and the Steiner Ranch/River Place area of Northwest Austin and East Lake Travis.

Campaign Finance Reports (CFR) filed for Growing LISD’s Future included the below individuals and entities who helped promote the bond measure financially with the contribution indicated. The below details also include payments made by Leander ISD to businesses with whom some of the contributors may be associated.

Campaign Finance Reports are public record and are required by law for a reason. Unfortunately, some of the required information, including street addresses of contributors, is now redacted from the online versions of electronic CFRs.  Links to search tools and resources are listed at the bottom:

Brad Pfluger – $5,000.00 – Austin

Brad Pfluger is a partner in Pfluger Associates Architects which received the bid and designed a number of schools in the Leander ISD, including the recently-opened Tom Glenn High School. Leander ISD made payments to Pfluger Associates Architects of over $4,500,000.00 between August 2012 and August 2014. None of the Travis County properties in the name of Bradley D Pfluger are within the Leander ISD, meaning Mr. Pfluger does not pay taxes to Leander ISD.

Martin Burger – $2,500.00 – Austin

There is a Marty Burger who is Chief Executive Officer of American Constructors in Cedar Park. American Constructors designs, engineers, and builds K-12 school facilities. Leander ISD made payments totaling over $158,000,000.00 to American Constructors  between October 2011 and August 2017. There are two properties in Travis County showing ownership by a Martin Burger. Neither property is within the Leander ISD, meaning that neither pays taxes to the Leander ISD and is not impacted should the LISD bond election pass.

American Constructors, Inc. – $2,500.00 – Cedar Park

This is a corporate campaign contribution in addition to the $2,500.00 by Martin Burger, CEO of American Constructors. Leander ISD made payments totaling over $158,000,000.00 to American Constructors between October 2011 and August 2017.

Kevin Byrd – $2,000.00 – Austin

It has not yet been determined whether this is the same Kevin Byrd who serves as VP of Operations for Bartlett Cocke General Contractors. Leander ISD made payments totaling over $39,000,000.00 to various Bartlett Cocke entities between October 2011 and October 2016.  Public Travis CAD tax rolls list a Kevin Byrd in Austin owning property in Austin that is not within the Leander ISD and not subject to Leander ISD taxes.

Randy Fuston  – $1,000.00 – Austin

It has not yet been determined whether this is the same Randy Fuston who is a Principal at MEP Engineering, which provides mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering services and has received numerous past contracts on Leander ISD projects and payments totaling over $1,200,000.00 from Leander ISD since October 2011. Public Travis CAD tax rolls list a Randy Fuston in Austin owning property within the Vandegrift High School attendance zone of Leander ISD.

Chuck Fields  –  $1,000.00 – Austin

It has not yet been determined whether this is the same Chuck Fields, as the Chuck Fields who is President of Fields & Associates Architects which were the recipients of numerous design contracts from Leander ISD Board of Trustees in the past. Leander ISD has made payments totaling over $2,500,000.00 to Field Associates, Inc. since January 2012, but it has not yet been confirmed whether the Leander ISD check register contains an error in the spelling of the Payee name and whether Field Associates, Inc. is the same entity as Fields & Associates Architects. Neither public Williamson CAD nor Travis CAD tax rolls appear to list property owned by a Chuck Fields or paying taxes to Leander ISD.

Atkins –  $1,000.00 – Austin

The name “Atkins” was the only identifier on the Campaign Finance Report. No contact name or address was provided on the online version of the CFR, so it could not be determined whether this Atkins is affiliated with Atkins North America, which has received over $2,500,000.00 in payments from Leander ISD since October 2011.

Walsh Gallegos Trevino Russo & Kyle P.C.  –  $1,000.00 – Austin

Walsh Gellegos’ services to school districts include providing consulting and legal assistance for construction contracts and real estate transactions. Leander ISD has made over $900,000.00 in payments to Walsh Gallegos Trevino Russo & Legal Services since June 2015. Since September 2011, Leander ISD has made payments totaling over $1,800,000.00 to Walsh Anderson Brown.

Picket Kelm & Associates, Inc.  –  $750.00 – Austin

Pickett, Kelm & Associates, Inc. provide structural engineering consulting. Past projects include numerous Leander ISD facilities. Leander ISD has made payments totaling over $76,000.00 to Picket, Kelm & Associates since August 2012.

Mark Ramseur  –  $500.00 – San Antonio

It has not yet been determined whether this is the same Mark Ramseur, as the Mark Ramseur who serves as Regional Vice President of Pape-Dawson Engineers, which provides land development and site planning services for new construction. Neither public Williamson CAD nor Travis CAD tax rolls appear to list property owned by a Mark Ramseur or paying taxes to Leander ISD.

Andrews & Kurth Texas PAC  –  $500.00 – Austin

Andrews & Kurth is an international law firm with Austin offices, providing legal services, including public procurement, public finance, contacting and lobbying, to a broad spectrum of private and public clients.

COMBS Consulting Group, LP – $250.00 – San Antonio

COMBS Consulting Group, LP services to school districts include bond planning, construction management, I.T. and security design consulting.

Shaun Cranston –  $100.00 – Austin

It has not yet been determined whether this is the same Shaun Cranston who served as Vice President and lead executive in the Central Texas area for Brookfield Residential, a Canada-headquartered residential developer. Brookfield’s developments in Leander include Bryson, Cap Rock Estates, Cottages at Crystal Falls, Travisso, and Wild Rock. Public Travis CAD tax rolls list a Shaun Cranston in Austin owning property within the Vandegrift High School attendance zone of LISD.

Amy Jones  – $1,500.00 – Austin

The online campaign finance report does not show a specific address for this Amy Jones. It only shows Austin, Texas. There is not enough transparency to confirm whether this is the same Amy Jones who serves as President of O’Connell Robertson, which lists Leander ISD as a past client and received payments from Leander ISD in Q3 2011. O’Connell Robertson provides architectural, interior design, MEP engineering, and construction administration services to educational institutions. Leander ISD taxpayer status has not yet been determined.

Petri Darby – $100.00 – Cedar Park

Public information shows a Petri Darby as VP Marketing for Raise Your Hand Texas, which provides services to school districts. Williamson CAD tax rolls list a Petri Darby in Cedar Park and owning property within Leander ISD. According to Leander ISD ‘s Public Information Officer, Mr. Darby was a member of the Steering Committee.

Brian and Shelle Pitman – $500.00 – Austin

Brian Pitman, President/COO of Independence Title, Austin. The Williamson County or Travis County property tax rolls show conflicting data on an address in Steiner Ranch. Williamson County Appraisal District shows the lot owned by Brian and Shelle Pitman. Travis County Appraisal District shows that property ownership was transferred from the Pitmans to another individual/entity. There are no other public listings on the Williamson County and Travis tax rolls showing property ownership in the name of Brian or Shelle Pitman, so it is undetermined whether they reside and pay taxes in the Leander ISD.

Kenton Heinze – $100.00 – Cedar Park

Kenton Heinze is the Chief Executive Officer of Braun and Butler Construction whose clients include school districts. Braun and Butler has recieved over $3,400,000.00 in payments from Leander ISD since Q1 2016. The tax rolls currently show Kenton Heinze owning a residential property within Leander ISD and paying taxes to Leander ISD.

Mitchell Fuller – $100.00 – Cedar Park

Mitch Fuller is a Senior Consultant for J.L. Powers and Associates, in Dripping Springs. J.L. Powers and Associates advises clients on how to gain access to public sector projects, including those of school districts and municipal entities. They provide consulting on strategic communication and social media in order to achieve passage of bond elections. Fuller previously served on the Cedar Park City Council. There are no online public listings in either the Williamson County and Travis tax rolls showing property ownership in the name of Mitch Fuller, so it is undetermined whether he still resides and pays taxes in the Leander ISD.

Vic and Sandra Villareal – $100.00 – Leander

If this is the same Vic and Sandra Villareal whose last name is listed in the public Williamson County tax records with the spelling, “Villarreal”, then this Vic Villareal is an education consultant and former chair of Austin Community College Board of Trustees, as well as former Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Leander. See your ACC and City of Leander property tax increases over the past 8 years. Note: the increases are due to elected leaders allowing the tax rates to rise above the annual Effective Tax Rate. There is a Vic and Sandra Villareal who own property within the LISD and pay taxes to LISD.

Scott Rowe – $100 – Cedar Park

Campaign Treasurer for Growing LISD’s Future. There is a Scott L. Rowe who was a former candidate for Leander ISD school board. His profile in Community Impact shows his occupation as a corporate tax accountant and that he most recently served as a chief financial officer and board member of the Eastvale Community Foundation in Eastvale, California. Note: Perform a Google search on “public school debt California”.

Tom Glenn – Former LISD Superintendent

One of the major figureheads of the PAC, Glenn helped lead Leander ISD down the path of extensive debt for which Leander ISD homeowners and taxpayers are obligated. One of his legacies is that principal and interest obligations now exceed over $70,000.00 per student**, before any new bond approval and issuance.

The above data is accessible to anyone with internet access, but it is not aggregated in a single website. The GrowingLISDsFuture website does list some of the above individuals, but it does not provide the full picture. Although the information is public, it does take work, time and thought to pull data together from the various sources. This is something the media will typically not do for taxpayers and voters, even though it would provide greater transparency.

Campaign finance filing is in place for a reason, but many interested voters are not aware of how to find that information. This is certainly an issue for those in our neighborhoods who will be significantly impacted by the election outcome.

Informed citizens who exercise their right to vote are the best advocates for sound public policy and financial freedom, especially for those whose property tax burden is becoming unbearable and unsustainable.

Helpful online search tools:

Texas Ethics Commission search

Growing LISD’s Future Campaign Finance Report (Oct. 3, 2017 filing)

Growing LISD’s Future – Campaign Finance Report (Oct. 26, 2017 filing)

Williamson County Appraisal District

Travis County Appraisal District

“Politics of School Finance” 

Helpful financial links:

Leander ISD Debt Report

Texas Tribune – Leander ISD

Texas Bond Review Board

Debt per Student and Interest to Principal Ratio

Campaign Finance Report Instructions

Specific-Purpose Committee Instruction Guide

*From “Instruction Guide for Specific-Purpose Committees”

“5. Full Name of Contributor: Enter the full name of the contributor. If the contributor is an individual, enter the full name, first, last, and suffix (Jr., III, etc.) if applicable (title is optional). If the contributor is an entity, enter the full name of the entity.”

“6. Contributor Address: Enter the complete address of the contributor.”

**How can there be over $70,000.00 of debt obligations for every student in LISD?

(see link to Debt per Student and Interest to Principal Ratio above)

Debt incurs a cost in the form of interest, which must be factored into the repayment obligation.

Outstanding Principal (August 31, 2015):        $1,072,980,342.00

Outstanding Interest (Augusts 31, 2015):         $2,241,607,145.00

Debt per student (principal only):                                  $28,876.00

Debt per student (principal + interest):                         $89,202.03

% of Debt Paid Off in Next 10 Years:                                             27%

Interest to principal ratio:                                                             2.09

(These numbers have changed slightly over the past two years, but there remains over $70,000.00 of obligation for every Leander ISD student. This is before passing more bond elections and issuing more debt.)

Copyright © 2017 Don Stroud