Early voting for Killeen City Council and school board elections begins in two weeks.

Have you done your homework?

A total of 20 candidates are vying for your votes — 13 of those office seekers are running for council seats and seven for the Killeen ISD board.

With that many voices clamoring for your attention, it’s important to know who is saying what — and why.

Knowing where the candidates stand is especially crucial, given that the two elected bodies are responsible for annual budgets that last year topped a combined $560 million. For residents living within Killeen and the Killeen school district, that accounts for more than $1.87 for every $100 in taxable property. That equates to $2,805 in taxes on a $150,000 home — not exactly small potatoes.

With so much taxpayer money at stake, it’s only right that you, the voter, should have a say in how it’s spent — and who you elect to spend it.

But there’s more to choosing candidates than selecting the best steward of your tax money.

Voters also must consider factors such as who seems most responsive to their needs, who has a solid grasp of the issues facing the city or school district, and who has the best vision for moving the city or district into the future.

When considering whether to elect a challenger, or re-elect an incumbent, voters have a responsibility to ask who would do a better job of addressing the city or school board’s challenges — and who would do a better job of keeping promises to the voters.

As voters, it’s your right to tell the candidates what you want — rather than wait until the candidates tell you what they’ll do.

At the March 27 Herald political forum for Killeen City Council candidates, several candidates differed over the need for an intensive audit of the city’s finances, though residents have demanded one since last summer’s budget crisis. The council subsequently approved an audit and the funding for the investigation.

Yet as recently as last week, one incumbent seeking re-election continued to discount the need for an audit and tried to spread misinformation about its source of funding.

Voters who are committed to seeing the audit through to its completion have an obligation to learn the candidates’ views on the subject and elect council members who share that commitment.

Where are the candidates’ proposals for addressing the city’s continuing crime problem? What about the candidates’ respective abilities to understand the financial complexities surrounding the budget process? What approaches would they take to bringing jobs and industry to the city?

For school board candidates, how would they tackle the Killeen district’s continuing challenges in he area of special education? How would they compensate for an anticipated loss in federal Impact Aid? And what steps would they advocate to reverse the district’s poor performance on the Texas Education Agency’s A-F Ratings earlier this year?

Just as important as where the candidates stand is knowing who stands behind them.

Campaign filing reports, such as the latest reports released Friday, can offer a revealing look at which residents, political action committees, businesses and special interests have contributed to the various political campaigns. As the old saying goes, sometimes you just have to follow the money.

That goes for government transactions as well.

Residents, you have a right to expect open and honest communication from council and school board members whenever a major expenditure is considered — and you should demand to know where the money is coming from to pay for it.

Voters, you  deserve council members who will be “hands-on” regarding issues affecting the taxpayers, who have a solid understanding of municipal finances and are committed to transparency and accountability in government.

As such, it’s imperative to familiarize yourselves with the candidates and ask them the hard questions. After all, they work for you.

The Herald is committed to giving you the information needed to make informed choices in the upcoming elections.

Inside today’s Herald is an Election Guide, featuring side-by-side Q&As so you can compare candidates’ responses on the issues. In addition to the Killeen city and school board races, the special section also will feature articles on the elections for Harker Heights City Council, Lampasas City Council and Lampasas ISD board of trustees.

Candidate bios and video interviews can be found on the Herald’s website kdhnews.com/centerforpolitics.

As the May 6 election approaches, the Herald will kick off a campaign to encourage you, the voters, to select the most knowledgeable and responsive candidates.

These are your candidates and your issues.

Make your votes count and your voices heard.

dmiller@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7543

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