As a taxpayer, would you be outraged if you found out that your hard-earned tax dollars were used to buy a $700,000 home for the school superintendent to live in?
That’s what the residents of Grand Prairie, Texas are learning and many are not happy about it.
Grand Prairie is what they refer to as a Mid-City in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. The city of about 180,000 residents lies about 12 miles due west of downtown Dallas and about 19 miles due east of downtown Fort Worth. The city demographics are about 52% Caucasian, 20% Hispanic and 20% black American. Due to its location, property values are relatively high. For instance, a four-bedroom, 2 ½ bath, 2,700 sq. ft. home on 5 acres of land sold for about $700,000. Actually, the home and its lot is valued around $400,000, meaning the rest of acreage accounts for the other $300,000.
Located in Grand Prairie is a fine arts academy that is quite popular. The Grand Prairie Independent School District decided they needed another access road to the academy, so the district purchased the home and five acres with the intention of building another access road through the property.
To use an old movie/play cliché, then something funny happened on the way to building the access road. School Superintendent Susan Hull conveniently moved into the home, purchased with taxpayer dollars. Not only did taxpayers pay for the home and surrounding acreage, but they will also pay the estimated $12,000 annual property tax on the just home that Hull is now living in. That means that thanks to taxpayers, Hull does not have a house payment nor does she have to pay the property taxes.
But wait, there’s more!
According to one source:
“The discovery prompted Fox 4 to dig deeper, and district officials released additional records four months after the station submitted a public information request that reveal taxpayers also footed the bill for $125,000 in renovations to the home that were never approved by the school board.”
“The former school board president, Terry Brooks, alleged the money went toward mold remediation, but district records showed otherwise.”
“Receipts for the renovations included a $45,000 fence to surround the property, patio ceiling fans, granite counter tops, $1,200 in caulking around the home’s large in-ground pool deck, and a new driveway.”
It doesn’t seem likely that the school district has any intention of tearing down the house anytime soon after spending $125,000 in renovations. Sure looks like they intend to keep the house for a number of years.
To add insult to injury, Cal Jillson, a political expert from SMU, told the local media:
“For administrators to break up an $80,000 bill into two – each less than $50,000 – so they don’t have to get that approval is skirting the rules purposefully, and shouldn’t be done.”
“It’s not an ethical gray area, it’s simply law. The rule is that if your expenditure is more than $50,000, you’ve got to take it for approval to the elected school board.”
Oh yeah, Superintendent Hull is paid an annual salary of $360,000 PLUS bonuses and other allowances totalling another $84,000. My wife and I together don’t make as much as Hull’s bonus and allowances, let alone her salary, and yet we pay for our home and property taxes, as do most residents in the Grand Prairie school district.
If I lived in Grand Prairie, and thankfully I don’t, I would be spearheading a campaign to have Hull and all the members of the school district board removed from office and find more responsible individuals to replace them with. That also means evicting Hull, charging her for rent for the time she lived in the home and then tearing down the house and begin the process of building the access road as originally intended and approved.