SAN ANTONIO -- Are you willing to pay a higher tax every time you buy something?
That is, if it goes toward providing Pre-K to San Antonio kids? That issue is on the November ballot, and a lot of money is being spent to sway your vote. News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila has the Inside Story on who's behind this campaign blitz.
You may have seen the signs going up all over town. Thousands of them have been ordered, along with TV ads and direct mail. They urge you to vote for the Pre-K sales tax increase.
Since the mayor and city council are behind this initiative, some of you asked us to find out if your tax money is being used to get it passed.
Mayor Julian Castro has pushed his Pre-K initiative at every opportunity, even during his speech at the Democratic National Convention. The city council voted to put it on the November ballot. The city's website features the message: Pre-K for SA, Invest in our kids.
However, city officials say tax-payer money and city resources are not being used on the huge advertising campaign that is just now taking off. It's being paid for by a political action committee, managed by Christian Archer, who is also Mayor Castro's campaign manager.
“There are no tax-dollars, no city dollars, going into the campaign. All that money is going to be privately raised and we're working on it now, in fact, we're more than half way to our budget”, Archer told us.
Archer says he expects to spend more than $600,000 on advertising between now and the election.
Where's that money coming from? The biggest employers in San Antonio: HEB, Rackspace, Nu Star Energy, Toyota, Valero and USAA have all written checks.
“I think people get it. This is an investment in the long-term health of our city. Employers want a smart, educated work force”, Archer said.
Opponents of the Pre-K tax hike say they don't question the importance of early childhood education. However, they think the city should leave that up to school districts.
They warn that city staffers are allowed to educate the public about the Pre-K initiative, but they can't cross the line and urge people to vote for it.
“If government is using its staff in an unfair advantage, that's the problem. Government should always be neutral in a matter until the voters decide”, said George Rodriguez of the South Texas Political Alliance.
On the signs paid for by private contributions, there's a key phrase: “Vote Yes on November 6". You won't find that line on the city website, because they're not allowed to tell you how you should vote.