Interim Superintendent Scott Thompson’s custard-klatsch at Culver’s provided little in the way of new information regarding the District’s finances or its plans for pursuing the bond issue. Confusion and consternation are the words that come to mind when I think of the wild disparities between the 5 year financial forecast that was discussed at Culver’s and presented at the regular school board meeting tonight, and the previous 5 year forecast that was presented to the board in March 2010 when the board voted on the bonds. The new forecast shows the District engaging in deficit spending, but at a slower rate than had been previously forecasted. However, the forecast assumes zero percent base pay increase for teachers after their contract expires in 2012, and this could explain why the deficits are smaller. If past performance during contract negotiations is any indicator of future performance in our district, I would say it is highly unlikely that the teachers will experience a base pay freeze, and therefore these numbers are not reliable. These new numbers may warm the hearts of certain board members, but they do not inspire confidence in the District’s ability to make long range financial decisions about issues that will directly impact our students.
Regarding the bond issue, it is clear that the District still does not have a plan for how it would prioritize the many projects on its wish list. Interim Superintendent Thompson indicated that they were waiting to hire an architect to oversee the project, which architect would make these recommendations. Assuming the district wins its referendum, I have a hard time believing that they will be able to do all of the work necessary to get Build America Bonds issued by December 31, if they don’t even have an architect on board yet.
When asked how he could guarantee that the District would not borrow any more than the $16 million Thompson says is needed to make necessary repairs to District buildings, Thompson acknowledged that there was no way he could guarantee the remaining $11 million would not be borrowed for any purpose, but that he would be terribly disappointed if that happened.
In response to the question “What is the District’s plan if the referendum is defeated?”, Mr. Thompson replied that he planned on opening up a dialogue with the community to seek input on what the community’s goals are, and how they would like to proceed. In other words, he would do what the District had failed to do back in March, when it put the cart before the horse and raced out of the barn.
In my opinion it all comes down to a matter of trust. Can we trust these people to leave money on the table, and not borrow the entire $27 million over the next 3 years? Can we trust them to come up with a 5 year financial forecast that is based upon realistic assumptions, which we can use as a guide for making sound financial decisions for the District, and our children?
Sadly, the answer to these questions is clearly “NO”, and that will be my vote on November 2.