Scott Thompson and Mike Adamczyk (Assistant Superintendent for Finance) came to our meeting last night and presented the District’s plan for capital projects in the event the bond referendum is approved by the voters on November 2. Mr. Thompson reiterated his position that the District should not issue more than $16 million in bonds, but acknowledged that if the referendum passes there will be nothing to stop the District from borrowing the entire $27 million within the next three years.
Mr. Thompson acknowledged that District 15 has never had a long term plan for improving and maintaining the District’s 20 school buildings. When asked about the District’s plan for maintaining buildings in the event the referendum fails, Mr. Thompson said that the District does not have a plan for taking care of capital projects. This is particularly galling in light of the fact that the District is sitting on a $55 million reserve ($14 million in excess of their targeted reserve of 30% of expenditures). But, Mr. Thompson says the District does not want to tap into its “rainy day” fund to repair and maintain buildings. An audience member asked Mr. Thompson what the reserves are there for, if not for making necessary repairs, and Mr. Thompson noted that the District plans to spend down its reserves (deficit spending) over the next 5 years until the reserves balance is projected to be $30 million. This equates to $25 million in deficit spending over the next 5 years. The reserves will be spent on operating expenses, including salaries and benefits.
And the District’s plan for balancing the budget, and stopping the deficit spending? They don’t have one. But they do have a plan for coming up with a long range plan for the District called “Navigate 15”. They will be seeking community input over the course of monthly public meetings beginning on November 16, from 7-9 pm at Winston Campus. The Navigate 15 sessions will consider and discuss every aspect of education in the District, including curriculum, finances, technology, facilities, and recommendations will be made to the Board next fall.
I think the Navigate 15 program is a great idea, if properly executed. But I don’t think that the District should put off creating a capital improvement plan for another year. One day the sky is falling and we need to replace 11 roofs immediately, the next we can afford to wait a year to create a plan for building repairs and maintenance. I appreciate Mr. Thompson taking the time to present the District’s plan, and to answer questions. Unfortunately the answers just raised more questions about the District’s spending priorities, and their commitment to putting the needs of our students first.