In a 4-2 vote with one abstention, the Kingsville Independent School District Board of Trustees approved a resolution Tuesday to split equally their 1,650 votes between their two nominees for the Kleberg County Appraisal District Board of Directors.
The six-member Board of Directors oversees several duties for the appraisal district, including approving the annual operating budget, hiring a chief appraiser and developing and implementing policies, but do not have any power over district tax values.
Each of the nine entities served by the Kleberg County Appraisal District — Kleberg County, the City of Kingsville, KISD, Ricardo ISD, Riviera ISD, Santa Gertrudis ISD, South Texas Water Authority, the Kenedy County Groundwater Conservation District and the City of Corpus Christi — is allocated a percentage of the 5,000 total votes for board elections based on its 2018 tax levies.
Kingsville ISD had about $12.9 million in tax levies for 2018, which is roughly 33 percent of the $39.1 million total for the nine entities and grants them the highest number of votes with 1,650.
The local entities submit nominations to elect five board members to serve a two-year term. The Kleberg County Tax Assessor-Collector also serves on the appraisal board, but is a non-voting member.
During their Oct. 15 regular meeting, the KISD board approved a resolution in a 5-2 split vote to nominate Vice-President Brandon Greenwood and trustee Lynn Yaklin for the appraisal board.
Along with Greenwood and Yaklin, this year’s nominees included Daniel Morales and Al Higginbotham, both nominated by Kleberg County, and Al Garcia as the nominee from the City of Kingsville.
After KISD’s Oct. 15 meeting, Ricardo ISD Superintendent Vita Canales and Riviera ISD Superintendent Karen Unterbrink protested to Kleberg County Chief Appraiser Ernestina Flores that they did not receive notification regarding the board nomination period, which they said caused them to miss the deadline.
In an interview in early November, Flores said “this isn’t the first time some districts have not met the date.”
“I’ve treated everybody the same,” Flores said. “And I’m comfortable with those decisions because I am following the law, and when there are questions, I do seek legal advice and make my determinations based on that.”
According to a letter Unterbrink received from attorney Joseph Longoria of Perdue Brandon Fielder Collins and Mott LLP representing the appraisal district on Oct. 30, nominating notices were sent through the United States Postal Service on or about June 25, and for Riviera ISD the nominee process “has been exhausted.”
During Tuesday’s KISD board meeting, trustee Nick Prado made a motion to give all 1,650 votes to Yaklin, which was seconded by Board Secretary Corando Garza to allow for discussion.
“My concern is I’m totally confused, to be honest,” Corando Garza said.
Trustee Cory Garza, who voted for the two nominees at the Oct. 15 meeting, said they were all confused, and after “hearing conversations throughout the community” and “speaking with a superintendent up the road,” he wanted to revisit the item.
“As far as trying to be a good neighbor and doing what’s right not only for Kingsville ISD but for the entire Kleberg County and other entities,” he said. “But again, I think we were all confused. I was confused.”
Greenwood said he was confused as to why County Judge Rudy Madrid had come before the KISD board in the public participation portion of their Oct. 28 meeting and “asked us to give up one of our (nominees) when he has two.”
“Why didn’t he give up one of his?” Greenwood asked. “We have the votes. We’re the biggest entity.”
Prado said he asked Madrid that question, and said his response was that Kleberg County gives their votes to “the King Ranch directly, not SGISD” and to the STWA.
Trustee Steven Crites said his concern is that Kingsville ISD represents one-third of the tax base, but only has 20 percent of the vote on the appraisal board.
“And that doesn’t seem like proportional representation to me,” he said.
Crites also said that he does not believe the good neighbor policy is apropos “because they (other school districts) haven’t exercised the good neighbor policy toward us.”
“So if there’s going to be a repercussion, what is it?” he asked. “What is the repercussion going to be? Because I would really like to know why I wouldn’t want to have two people on that board opposed to one to represent our tax base.”
Board President Brian Coufal said with only five nominees, he did not know what would happen “if one were to get zero votes.”
“I don’t know if that authorizes that board to appoint,” Coufal said. “I mean, I’m not sure that the objective that they want to achieve is achievable because they missed the deadlines.”
Yaklin said the question was whether a nominee could pull their name from the ballot.
“Because I’m okay doing that as well,” she said.
Crites said after speaking with Judge Madrid, he felt the problem was the board had “a flawed distribution to begin with.”
“Because no matter what you do, somebody’s going to be over-represented or under-represented,” he said. “Why don’t you add a couple of seats, and then a smaller district will get one and a bigger district will get two?”
After additional discussion, the motion to give Yaklin all 1,650 votes failed on a 2-4 split with Prado and Cory Garza for and Yaklin, Greenwood, Crites and Coufal against.
Corando Garza abstained from the vote.
Greenwood then made the motion to split the votes evenly between himself and Yaklin, which Crites seconded. The motion passed 4-2, with Prado and Cory Garza against and Corando Garza again abstaining.
Prior to the final vote, Yaklin said that while she has been the KISD board’s nominee for several years in the past, not all 100 percent of the district’s votes have always gone to her.
“As a board, we typically distribute some of our (votes) out of goodwill or as a good neighbor,” she said.
The nine entities have until Dec. 15 to cast their votes for the nominees, who will serve a two-year term once elected.
Anthony Ruiz can be contacted at email@example.com or (361) 221-0251.