ECISD bond still contentious as supporters, opponents continue sparring

Signs for and against the Edinburg school district's $220 million bond election compete for voter's attention Saturday at a polling station in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Voters may have struck down a $220 million Edinburg school bond on Saturday, but tensions between the two sides remain high.

The source of those tensions surround campaign signs that opponents say were removed from a school district campus. Supporters of the bond, meanwhile, have accused the other side of ethics violations.

>> READ THE COMPLAINT

Norma Saldaña of the Objective Watchers of the Legal System, or OWLS, reported the theft of political signs advocating against the bond to the McAllen Police Department on April 29, alleging district employees may have taken down the signs, which she considers her property.

Saldaña stated the Prosperity Hidalgo Political Action Committee placed signs in front of Cayetano Cavazos Elementary School but were taken down, according to the police incident report. The school was designated as a polling location, and signs are “permitted as long as they are not within 100 feet of the location,” the report read.

She said she was notified when her signs were found at the Edinburg CISD maintenance department. Over the weekend, she said the signs were removed and her PAC was not notified of the removal and had not given permission for their removal.

“Even to make the signs, it’s a sacrifice for us because we took it out of our own personal pockets,” she said.

Saldaña said she hopes for an investigator to be assigned to the case, which is being handled by McAllen police since Cavazos Elementary is located within McAllen city limits.

Meanwhile, school board President Robert Peña Jr. filed a complaint to the Texas Ethics Commission against the “Save Edinburg – Vote Against the School Bond” committee on April 18, citing 12 alleged violations, including failures to file reports and itemize each expenditure.

The complaint also stated the committee allegedly violated ethics through the “acceptance of contributions exceeding $500” and “unlawful expenditure over $500 of modified reporting.”

Treasurer Patricio Eronini, a prominent opponent of the bond, is the only person named from the committee, the complaint read.

The $220 million bond failed to pass with over 70% of voters opting against the measure Saturday. Although voters struck it down, concerns on how the district handled the bond and its use of district facilities and manpower also remain in question.

“We’re concerned by whose direction and why did they end up in the school district… And our other concern is did they use school district employees to go remove these signs and school district equipment, or pickups or trailers,” Saldaña said.

The measure would have led to a maximum tax increase of up to about 4 cents, making the total tax rate at $1.28. The results are a “clear reflection” of how the people feel on a potential increase of taxes with the proposed bond, she added.

The proposed bond would have been used toward creating a new high school, middle school and two Career and Technical Education Centers, among other projects. District administrators and a majority of the school board held that the school district fairly disseminated information in regards to the election.