Category Archives: Education

This section of the Coupland Times is all about learning new things that are relevant to Coupland residents. Sub-categories will be added as needed.

Funding Essential Government Functions with Bonds? – It’s Your Choice on November 5

I received a flyer in the mail from “Citizens for Better Williamson County Transportation/2013.” If you live in Williamson County, you probably received one also. What grabbed my attention were the big, bold letters: WILL NOT RAISE OUR TAXES!

It’s time for a reality check. The development and maintenance of roads and parks costs money. I think we can all agree on that. Public roads and public parks are most likely going to be paid for with the public’s money. I think we can all agree on that, too. Now where’s that money going to come from? Probably from your taxes, agreed? So how can they say that these projects will not raise our taxes?

Before we go further, let’s look at bonds. A bond is essentially a promissory note that governments issue to buyers in exchange for cash up front . Bonds are sold in auctions. The buyer can expect repayment plus tax free interest according to the terms of the bond agreement. Sweet deal for them, especially considering they get the money for almost nothing from the Federal Reserve (which is not federal at all but a consortium of privately-owned banks). Where does the money come from to repay those bonds plus interest? You got it! The payments come from your taxes. Learn more here: Bonds

It is misleading to say that our taxes will not be raised. The flyer says, “by selling the road bonds incrementally over the next two years and leveraging the debt we have paid off, there will be no increase in the tax rate.”

What they mean by “leveraging the debt we have paid off” is that we will add new debt as we pay off old debt. So, instead of your taxes going down, they remain the same. It’s like constantly adding new charges to a credit card at the same time as you pay it down. You will never get it paid off and way too much of your payment is going to interest. The only people that benefit from interest payments are the big banks (and corporations owned or controlled by big banks) that buy and sell municipal bonds. If the county’s old debt was paid off, then the money that had been going to that debt service could either be returned back to the citizens in the form of reduced taxes (don’t hold your breath) or it could be used to begin building up a fund to pay for future projects. Those projects could be paid for with money that we are not having to pay interest upon. Now there’s a radical concept.

We have a debt-based economy. It doesn’t have to be that way but that, like the Federal Reserve, is a much larger topic. Let’s just stick to the immediate issue. I have a few concerns about the current campaign to put us further into debt to build or improve county infrastructure.

First, the flyer includes the Williamson County logo, such as you may have seen on official press releases from the county, which I have posted on this site. However, the flyer is not from the county but from an advocacy group. Who are these “citizens?” Take a look at who has donated money to the campaign and you will get the idea. Take a look at this Campaign Finance Report. It looks to me as though many of the principal contributors are the kinds of people and companies who might benefit from large construction projects. Many are not even residents of Williamson County. Maybe they really are well-meaning citizens — I’m not saying they aren’t — but it doesn’t smell right to me.

Second, I found this little gem on the Wilco website: 2013 Road and Park Bond Election

“The estimated costs, proposed locations, proposed projects and proposed descriptions listed represent possible uses of such bond proceeds. The actual projects constructed with bond proceeds are subject to change based on future economic, market and other conditions.”

So you think you’re voting for one thing but the county can spend it on something else if it so chooses. I don’t know about you but if I am committing myself to future debt for specific purposes, I want to know it is going to those purposes.

Third, the county is sitting on enough money to significantly reduce the county debit. Prepare for an education about local government finances.

Most people only see the “Popular Annual Financial Report” (PAFR) issued by various governments. The Williamson County PAFR is short (24 pages) and is designed to highlight all the positive news without divulging the details — wherein the Devil is said to reside.

The real information is in the “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report” (CAFR), which is 194 pages and contains a full disclosure of  government finances. I’m not an accountant but I can read and I know a little bit about how local government functions so I scanned through it. You can too.

Click on the links to see the PAFR and the CAFR for Williamson County for the fiscal year (FY) that ended on September 30, 2012 (the most recent year that has been audited). Here are a few interesting tidbits:

  • The recommended general fund balance is at least 30% of budgeted expenditures but at the end of FY 2012, the county had $73.8 million or 63% of budgeted expenditures for that year, so it’s not hurting for operating cash.
  • The county has investments (stocks, bonds, etc) that are not part of the general fund but which are “unassigned,” meaning they aren’t obligated to any specific purpose. At the end of FY 2012, the county’s total unassigned fund balance was just over $365 million.
  • The county’s long term liabilities (debt) total almost $855 million. That’s awful close to a BILLION dollars of debt already.
  • The county is paying interest on that debt in amounts ranging from 3% to 5.75%. That means the county is paying something north of about $36 million each year in interest before even touching the debt principal.

 

So what’s the bottom line (pun intended)? I look around and see county roads in need of maintenance. $36 million dollars would fill a lot of potholes but that money belongs to the big banks. It’s time for government to live like the rest of us. Start paying down the debt, don’t add new debt, maintain and expand roads and parks as best as you can but throw off the yoke of debt servitude as quickly as possible. I’m sure there is a bit of fat that can be trimmed here and there to make county government more lean.

0417_richtaxes_630x420It’s time to wean the government from living on debt. It will cry. That’s part of the weaning process. We may not be able to do anything about Washington D.C.’s addiction to debt (without staging massive acts of civil disobedience, that is) but we can do something about what goes on in our local governments. On November 5, send a clear message: NO MORE DEBT!




  • Be the Best Bean Counter You Can Be!

    I am conducting a series of financial literacy classes with the support of St. Peter’s Church of Coupland. The main topics are budgeting, asset-building, credit & credit repair, and first-time home-buying. Attendees get free copies of Quicken for Windows, while supplies last. The first class will be held on Tuesday, October 22 at 7 PM.

    The following article appeared in the October issue of “The Voice on the Hill,” the  newsletter of St. Peter’s Church:

    Attention everyone who is interested in taking control of their financial life: HELP IS ON THE WAY!

    Mr. Stewart Dale Spencer, M.A. in Developmental and Adult Education, will be offering a Financial Literacy Series beginning with what he calls his “Bean Budget Class (or How to Squeeze More Beans out of Your Budget!)” beginning on Tuesday, October 22nd from 7:00 – 8:30 PM in the downstairs Conference Room at St. Peter’s Church. Stewart has been teaching finances, and many other related subjects, for many years to groups of all levels and will be bringing his expertise to Coupland to share with our community. No need to RSVP, just come ready to learn! There is not a cost associated with the class but donations will be accepted.

    Stewart says, “What you don’t know can hurt you. Too many people today have grown up with very little knowledge of how our financial system works. Powerful Money Masters control key elements of the financial game. If you don’t know the rules, you can’t play the game very well. The stakes of this game are high. Your future and that of your children and grandchildren are on the line. Let me help you become a money master in your own right. Learn how to control your expenses, how to better manage your income, how credit works and how you can make yours better, how to build assets on your current income, and the pros and cons of homeownership as well as alternative paths to homeownership.”

     

    Kali says, "My P-Pop is teaching me about real money!" (Okay, I made that up. After all, she's only three but someday she will understand. You don't have to wait so long. Come and learn what everyone used to know!)

    Kali says, “My P-Pop is teaching me about real money!” (Okay, I made that up. After all, she’s only three but someday she will understand. You don’t have to wait so long. Come and learn what everyone used to know!)




  • Coupland Civic Organization General Meeting Highlights

    The Coupland Civic Organization met on Monday, September 30, in the Fire Station. Refreshments and visiting began at 6:30 PM. Hospitality Chair Dottie Hahn provided the delicious cake. Before the main program, Lena Ging announced a bake sale to benefit the Coupland Volunteer Fire Department. If the bake sale raises $500, the Coupland Sons of Hermann will match it, making $1,000 for the Fire Department. The sale will be in the Fire Hall on Saturday, October 19, beginning at 8 AM.

    ImageThe program was presented by Tanya Suchomel, who was accompanied by her son Wesley and his wife Ashley. First, the 25 attendees filled out a Toxin Checklist, checking on the top sheet what types of cleaners and toiletries they used. Later on in the evening, they lifted up the top sheet to see the second sheet that showed what dangerous chemicals are in the products that were checked. Tanya also passed out a sheet showing known toxins in some name-brand everyday products.

    Tanya showed a video, “Toxic Brew,” that discussed toxic chemicals that are in common household cleaning products and detergents. Then, she discussed how toxic chemicals had affected her family. She said that when her youngest son Wes was 11, he started having back aches and then other health problems. Through the next few years, the family took him to different doctors, but, Tanya said, “No doctor could answer what’s causing it.”

    Then in 2005, Tanya saw the “Toxic Brew” video. She said, “It set me on a search. Wes was literally wasting away. He was hypersensitive to chemicals. I reached out to try to find alternatives. Vinegar and baking soda go only so far. I found a company that’s been green since 1985.”

    Tanya didn’t mention the company name during her talk, but afterwards, some attendees asked her about it and the company is Melaleuca, The Wellness Company. She does not sell their products, but can help others to acquire them. She found that the non-toxic products that are sold in our area are too expensive. She said, “I had to make it affordable.”

    She commented, “I was able to detox our home, and in two weeks he was feeling better.” Many of the products that she got rid of contain volatile organic compounds that can affect a person through the skin, breathing, and ingestion. She also said, “I got rid of all the plastic in the kitchen, including Tupperware.” She warned not to use plastic containers or plastic wrap in the microwave; she advises to cover the food with paper towels instead.

    Tanya recounted how Wes started quickly growing in height and putting on weight after her change from toxic chemicals, and attendees were able to visit with Wes, now a healthy 25-year-old.




  • Coupland Students are Back for the Fall Semester

    Coupland School is off to a good start for the 2013-2014 school year.  Superintendent Gary Chandler is happy to report, “Our student enrollment is up slightly from last year.  We now have 107 students.”  The annual Meet the Teacher night, which included a hot dog dinner, was August 22, and the first day of class was Monday, August 26.

    This summer, the parking lot was repaired and has not been restriped yet.  It will be re-striped within the next two weeks, but until then parents are asked to remain in their lanes when dropping off or picking up students and to avoid pulling around other cars.  Mr. Chandler asks, “For now, please use extra caution and help keep our students safe.”

    Long-time Coupland teacher Marquita Ferguson has retired, and she will be greatly missed.  She taught  two of our daughters and our granddaughter, so we know first-hand what an excellent teacher she is.  She was known for her annual Living History Museum project.  Her students studied the historic person of their choice, wrote and memorized an account of their person’s life and accomplishments, and created costumes.  On the day of the Museum, the students would stand in costume.  Students from other grades and families would tour the Museum.  When visitors pushed a “button” on the historical figure, the student would tell the visitor about their character.  This was a great learning experience in many ways.

    Coupland student listens to "Annie Oakley" during Mrs. Ferguson's Living History Museum.

    Coupland student listens to “Annie Oakley” during Mrs. Ferguson’s Living History Museum.

    Mrs. Ferguson speaks with "Benjamin Franklin" at a past Living History Museum.

    Mrs. Ferguson speaks with “Benjamin Franklin” at a past Living History Museum.

    Dayna Dyess will be teaching the first grade, and the new third-grade teacher is Laura Steele.  The new Middle School science teacher is Austin Chandler, who also will coach the Cowboys.

    The school lost long-time Middle School math teacher Diane Mead.  For several years, Ms. Mead prepared her students so well that they were ahead of students from other schools when they entered high school. The new math teacher is Steven Markowski; he also will assist Austin Chandler in coaching the Cowboys.  Veronica Ruiz is the new PE teacher and the coach for the Cowgirls.

    Another loss was technology director Carolyn Lowry.  In addition to teaching computer skills and managing the school’s technology, Ms. Lowry also gathered historic accounts and pictures for the school’s Centennial Celebration in 2012, organized special events, and did volunteer landscaping around the school.

    There also are new faces in the school office.  Shelley Stautz, who worked in the office several years ago and is a graduate of Coupland School, is the new business manager.  Joyce Rodriguez is the office assistant.

    The Cowgirls volleyball team is already practicing and preparing for their first game on September 5 at 4:30 p.m., which will be at home against McDade.  The Cowboys football team also will  see action at home against McDade on September 5 at 5 p.m.

    Coupland Cowgirls volleyball team in action during a previous season.

    Coupland Cowgirls volleyball team in action during a previous season.

    The PTA has had their first meeting and is planning this year’s Harvest Festival, which will be Saturday, November 9.  They are looking for donations for the auction and raffle.  Their next meeting will be Tuesday, September 3, at 6:30 p.m., in the work room.  The Harvest Festival, with the traditional turkey dinner and many activities, is the PTA’s biggest fundraiser.  Funds are used to help the students—such as buying additional supplies, athletic uniforms, and other things that the school could not afford without this help.




  • Williamson County Fights Back Against Mortgage Fraud

    [Publisher’s Note: If you aren’t familiar with the issues surrounding the extensive mortgage fraud over the past few years, I suggest you check out a book called “Clouded Titles” by Dave Kreiger. If you have bought or sold any property in the past decade or so, what you don’t know could hurt you.]

    Wilco

    COMMISSIONERS COURT HIRES MALOUF & NOCKELS, LLP

    August 19, 2013 (Williamson County, TX) – On August 13, 2013, the Williamson County Commissioners Court approved a contract with Malouf & Nockels, LLP to represent the County in the prosecution of a lawsuit against Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS), MERSCORP, Inc., Bank of America, National Association, and those acting in concert with them in claims arising out of the Defendants’ recordation or failure to record instruments related to promissory notes and/or mortgage obligations on real estate located in Williamson County. The Commissioners Court approved Malouf & Nockels, LLP to represent Williamson County as lead counsel together with the Williamson County Attorney’s Office which will be co-counsel on the case. The suit seeks injunctive relief to compel the Defendants to cease the practices of filing documents incorrectly naming MERS as a beneficiary and to compel MERS to records transfers among members with the County Clerk’s Office, together with a monetary recovery for lost recording fees. The contract with Malouf & Nockels, LLP is a contingency contract, meaning that Malouf & Nockels, LLP are only paid fees and costs out of a monetary recovery, if there is a monetary recovery for Williamson County against the Defendants. Malouf & Nockels, LLP currently represents Dallas, Harris and Brazoria Counties in a similar suit pending in federal court in Dallas,Texas.

    Pursuant to prior Commissioners Court approval, Williamson County together with Cameron County recently filed a motion to intervene in the currently pending lawsuit by Nueces County against the same Defendants in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas – Corpus Christi Division.

    ###




  • Does the Declaration of Independence Still Apply?

    If you have not read the Declaration of Independence lately . . . or ever . . . today would be a good day to do it. While you are reading it, ask yourself if the government abuses that concerned the leaders of the Thirteen Colonies sound familiar. Some say it is time for a new Declaration of Independence. Some say we need a new Constitutional Convention. Some say that their State should peacefully secede from these united States. Regardless of how you feel about these issues, there is no doubt that the federal government has grown far beyond the role envisioned by the early leaders of this nation. As Coupland’s new city government becomes established, it seems appropriate to remember the concerns of our forebears who merely wanted to be free to live their lives without excessive government intrusion and control.

    By the way, here is a well-documented recounting of what really happened to the men who signed the Delclaration of Independence: The Price They Paid

    Here is an image of the original Declaration of Independence, followed by a transcript from the National Archives:

    Declaration of Independence Image

    IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

    The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

    He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
    He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
    He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
    He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
    He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
    He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
    He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
    He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
    He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
    He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
    He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
    For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
    For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
    For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
    For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
    For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
    For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
    For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
    For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
    He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
    He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
    He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
    He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
    He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

    Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

    The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

    Column 1

    Georgia:
    Button Gwinnett
    Lyman Hall
    George Walton

    Column 2

    North Carolina:
    William Hooper
    Joseph Hewes
    John Penn

    South Carolina:
    Edward Rutledge
    Thomas Heyward, Jr.
    Thomas Lynch, Jr.
    Arthur Middleton

    Column 3

    Massachusetts:
    John Hancock

    Maryland:
    Samuel Chase
    William Paca
    Thomas Stone
    Charles Carroll of Carrollton

    Virginia:
    George Wythe
    Richard Henry Lee
    Thomas Jefferson
    Benjamin Harrison
    Thomas Nelson, Jr.
    Francis Lightfoot Lee
    Carter Braxton

    Column 4

    Pennsylvania:
    Robert Morris
    Benjamin Rush
    Benjamin Franklin
    John Morton
    George Clymer
    James Smith
    George Taylor
    James Wilson
    George Ross

    Delaware:
    Caesar Rodney
    George Read
    Thomas McKean

    Column 5

    New York:
    William Floyd
    Philip Livingston
    Francis Lewis
    Lewis Morris

    New Jersey:
    Richard Stockton
    John Witherspoon
    Francis Hopkinson
    John Hart
    Abraham Clark

    Column 6

    New Hampshire:
    Josiah Bartlett
    William Whipple

    Massachusetts:
    Samuel Adams
    John Adams
    Robert Treat Paine
    Elbridge Gerry

    Rhode Island:
    Stephen Hopkins
    William Ellery

    Connecticut:
    Roger Sherman
    Samuel Huntington
    William Williams
    Oliver Wolcott

    New Hampshire:
    Matthew Thornton

    Page URL:

    http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

    U.S. National Archives & Records Administration

    www.archives.gov

    8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD, 20740-6001, • 1-86-NARA-NARA •  1-866-272-6272




  • Why Do We Love Stories So Much?

    _storyteller_Anker_Grossvater_1884I have been interviewing people to learn more about Coupland’s history from a variety of perspectives. I love hearing the stories and I will be sharing them with you on a regular basis.

    A few years ago, I wrote an academic paper on storytelling but it was done from the perspective of my personal experiences with storytelling. If you have ever wondered about why people like stories so much or  what role storytelling plays in human cultures, I think you will enjoy this paper.

    Here is a short summary:

    This paper describes a journey to uncover whether or not Indigenous Learning techniques can be applied to modern adult education venues. It begins with an exploration of the value and role of storytelling. It explains the psychological foundations of storytelling and the effects thereof. It continues with a description of a variety of stories both from the personal life of the researcher and from adult education literature. It examines a multi-tribal American Indian project at certain Tribal Colleges and Universities to reclaim the stories of a number of tribes and to apply the cultural values of those peoples to American Indian-sponsored higher education programs. The journey provides the backdrop and inspiration for future adult education programs targeting low-income families which will attempt to draw upon the power of storytelling and the educational methods of American Indians.

    Click here to read the entire paper: The Roles of Storytelling in Adult Education

    Stewart Dale Spencer