We have less than 45 days to get ready to send a message to the District 15 school board that this community absolutely demands accountability from its elected officials. A rejection of the $27 million working cash bond issue is a good place to start. From the beginning, the Board’s decision making process has been bass-ackwards: find out how much money they can borrow without a referendum, and then cook up a capital projects wish list to try to justify it. What they came up with, $17 million in capital projects and $10 million in a working cash fund, never did make sense and was too expensive. The capital projects list far exceeded the $6 million in capital improvement the District had previously outlined, and contained many items that were not immediately necessary (replacing 11 roofs all at once!). And now the Interim Superintendent, Scott Thompson suggested at the Board meeting last Wednesday that he would recommend that the District borrow only $16 million, and only for capital projects.
The fact is, what Thompson says doesn’t matter. The language on the ballot on November 2 asks the voters if they want to authorize “27 million working cash bonds”. If approved the District will have until April 2013 to issue the full amount of the bonds. Working cash funds can be moved to any other District fund and used for any purpose, including paying day to day operating expenses. There is no guarantee that any of it will be spent on capital projects, no matter what the Interim Superintendent says. With three years to complete the bond issue, can anybody seriously believe that they would leave a penny on the table?
Another fact is that the District is in the process of depleting its $45 million reserves, and will have a zero reserve balance in 2014 if it keeps spending the way it has been. The District cannot borrow its way to a balanced budget, and should only borrow funds for capital projects that absolutely need to be completed within the next three years. We don’t need our own ill-conceived economic stimulus plan in D15, putting people to work and spending money on projects that don’t absolutely need to be done. We need a long range plan to reign in expenses and balance the budget, not an irresponsible money grab.
Here’s another truly scary fact: because the bond issue is now on the ballot, the debt ceiling that limited how much the District could borrow without going to a referendum no longer applies. If the voters approve, these bonds will increase your real estate taxes, but they will not reduce the amount of debt that is available to District 15. What this means is that if the referendum passes, the District could still propose another non-referendum bond issue similar to the one it did last March! They could borrow even more money and put the district even deeper in debt.
VOTE NO IN NOVEMBER!