Our USD 253 board president says he has heard a lot of positive and some negative with most of the negative from misunderstanding, not fully understanding the plan.
There will be more public meetings on this subject, but I would like to share what I have found in my research.
The following data comes from the school board or directly from the authorizing resolution No. 2019-7.
We actually get a tax reduction if the bond issue isn’t approved? We’re told the plan would only cause about a three mill increase, but the real cost is about 12 mills. In 2021, we will have paid off the outstanding bond levy of about nine mills, so that goes away and gives us a tax cut three times greater than the supposed raise if the issue is voted down. In terms of local mill rates, the real cost, 12 mills, is four times what we’ve been led to believe.
But that’s not the total cost. The 12 mills of property tax pay for just two-thirds of the property tax portion of the bond. USD 253 says ‘the state’ will pay about a third of the cost, but ‘the state’ is really just people who pay taxes. The 12 mills do not even cover the overall local taxes. Other taxes on local businesses, which are more than double those levied on personal property, will pick up the rest and you get to pay those also through higher prices!
Put this sum of money in a different light. If 3 mills on a $100,000 home comes to $35 a year, 12 mills will be $140. Over 28 years, the bill comes to $3,900. As noted above, this covers just the direct property tax you will see. The bond project is being sold as a $78 million project, but including interest, the real cost is $145 million.
Storm shelters are a big selling point for the project and safety sure is important, but the storm shelters only account for about 5 percent of the project. Fifty-two percent will go for new construction, mostly for a new high school science wing and classrooms. Another 21 percent is for renovations (like new cabinetry) and 20 percent for building systems (roofs, fire systems, electric, etc.).
What, then, are the millions of dollars of budget items for maintenance and capital improvements in the school budget for?
With student population basically flat or down, why new space? Possibly consider simply the 5 percent in the bond for storm shelters.
Why does our education lag so far behind the majority of other developed countries? It’s not funding amounts. So how will this new bond money improve our kids’ education? The percentage of teachers has gone up faster than the number of students and number of administrators even faster. We have spent money on new schools and remodeling with nothing to show in education progress.
We do not even try to consider outcomes, such as NAEP and ACT test scores, it is just spend spend spend.
I read things like, 75 percent of black California boys cannot meet state reading standards and in 2016, in 13 of Baltimore’s 39 high schools, not a single student scored proficient on the state’s mathematics exam. In six other high schools, only 1 percent tested proficient in math.
Extreme examples, data on Kansas seems to show us heading in that direction. The problem is not with students or teachers. Our administrators, school boards, state school board or department of ed nationally seem totally incapable of looking squarely at the problem.
Nothing is going to improve if we do not sit down to seriously and honestly define the goal(s) then evaluate solutions. What is actually needed to improve outcomes? As things set today, the only predictable future is higher taxes.