Have you ever had to listen to something that makes your head spin after about five minutes? As a member of the press, I sit through a lot of meetings, ranging anywhere from Commissioners Court to the Calallen and Tuloso-Midway school boards.
It goes without saying numbers fly pretty freely at any given meeting, whether they are about a budget or tax rates. I'll be quite honest - it can be pretty intimidating when you first hear figures that seem to have been written in Aramaic.
Let average citizens have a look at a school district's budget, for instance, and I'm sure they'll scratch their heads until a bald spot appears. Of course, there are those who can claim to know exactly what is in these reports, but for the average person, it's up to he or she to try and explain it to themselves whenever possible.
A Monday meeting with the Tuloso-Midway Independent School District's board of trustees was a prime example, to me, of this very responsibility. A long discussion took place on how to issue about $17.5 million of the $27.4 million approved by TMISD voters in a 2006 bond election.
In an instant, my head began to mildly feel like it was spinning. Part of it might have had to do with the fact that I had not had anything to eat since noon that day, but another reason was that I don't like numbers.
Growing up, math was not my strong suit. I loved to write and felt that I was good at it. "What would I ever need math for?" I would ask myself as I sat in an Algebra class in high school.
Now I know.
More than anything, I've learned that you can't be intimidated when it comes to numbers. If you do, they won't make any sense and they'll seem more complicated than they really are.
But I'm required to know these figures and to learn how to decipher them for you, our readers. It is my job as a journalist to inform you of what is going on with your hard-earned tax-dollars.
But your source of information doesn't have to be limited to what I or reporters at other publications tell you. Most of the time, these reports and figures are available if you just ask. By law, public entities are required to furnish citizens with certain informational requests, such as a budget or bond issuances.
As I finally grasped the numbers at Monday's school board meeting, I began work on a story to inform residents of the TMISD about the status of the remaining bonds that still need to be sold.
And once my head stopped spinning, I began to wonder if there was an average citizen out there who was doing the same thing. I'd like to think so.