by Capt Ed Davidson, former School Board member…….
After attending more than 400 School Board meetings over the years, some unfortunate tendencies have become both clear, and chronic. Worst of these is the School District bureaucracy’s tendency to become self-justifying and lacking in transparency during periods when there was no Taxpayer Watchdog on the Board with the grit to worry more about getting it right, than getting along; about going to the mat instead of going with the flow – and such compliant, rubber-stamp Boards of the past were directly responsible for allowing the District’s most embarrassing scandals and financial improprieties to fester with little accountability.
Thus here we are again, with the Imperial Superintendency committed to spending 3.25 million taxpayer dollars on Stock Island property to build a school bus depot, for which neither the public nor the School Board had any pre-vote, web site linked estimate of the predictable millions more in construction costs, or any outline of facility design – not even a rough sketch on a bar napkin — all while paying well in excess of the appraised value of the property, and while none of these factors have been discussed in the sunshine and disseminated to the taxpaying public, and the media.
Despite the District having recently paid off millions in prior construction indebtedness, they are now rushing headlong to max out the taxpayer’s credit card again, with 5 over-lapping construction projects totaling roughly 125 Million dollars. But there are three major problems with all this:
First, a significant budget shortfall approaching a Billion dollars has been predicted in Tallahassee for the past year.
Second, the legislative leadership has been openly earmarking the remaining available funds for the University system, not the K-12 schools;
And Third, the dominant, anti-public-school lobby is making strong moves to force all school districts to share a major portion of their capital funding with charter schools for the first time, leaving millions less every year from now on to re-build and maintain the traditional public schools – except by raising taxes.
Yet, as a parent pointed out at a recent meeting, there never seems to be enough money to put a Sheriff’s deputy in every school for campus security and student safety – though, curiously, there was enough money to hire an $87,000/year “spin doctor” Communications Director to blow smoke on social media and make the District bureaucracy look good.