You’re probably reading this on Thursday. Last Saturday, Oct. 19, I got a letter in the mail. No return address. The postmark is Minneapolis, which is meaningless since just about all metro area mail gets a Minneapolis 554 postmark. Here, in part, is what the letter said:
“Mr. Boncher, Mr Xxxxx
I thought I’d send the two of you this on the school referendum.
The question no one seems to be asking is, can the taxpayers afford this, given we just passed a referendum for $34 million just a short few years ago? If the $39 million questions pass we will have a $73 million school tax liability for the next 10-15 years, depending on the length of the two referendums. Voters should consider the impact on their taxes, with this $39 million on the back of the $34 million one. No one connected to the school is mentioning this, yet the voters need to be aware of this.
Maybe one of you could put a letter to the editor on this for next week’s paper...”
The writer goes on a bit, to admit feeling somewhat intimidated, and unwilling to express his or her opinion openly.
Can you believe that? Intimidation in our quaint, friendly little town? Why would anyone feel worried about expressing his or her opinion in print? So worried, in fact, that he or she feels the need for a designated writer?
That said, the anonymous person makes a valid point. How much debt should the school district (or the city of Jordan, for that matter) be carrying? Seventy-three million is a pretty fair chunk of change for a school district with 1,879 students. That would be $39,850.45 per student according to my calculator.
And I think we can safely assume that as soon as one bond is paid off, another will be sought in the unending cycle of deficit spending. School district debt, like the federal deficit, keeps getting bigger.
In his response to my earlier commentary, the superintendent of schools listed some very interesting and impressive things. Those things are so impressive, in fact, that one wonders why the school district needs more money. Other school districts may spend much more than the Jordan School District, while not achieving our school district’s admirable results. You can take that any way you want, but my read is, spending more money is no assurance of achieving better results. In fact, on the evidence of big spending school districts, it seems the opposite is true.
Among the things the Superintendent of Schools mentioned were the Community Education Recreation Center, the community access cable TV channel, and various recreation activities, including scheduling park shelter reservations. What he failed to mention is that the city pays the school district $27,540 per year for recreational programs and for running the cable access channel. (This increases by 2% for inflation each year so it will be $28,091 next year). The city estimates about $5,000 to $6,000 goes to public access work. The city also pays $56,000 toward CERC operations. So the total city contributions for 2019 to community education, recreation, and the operations of the CERC are $83,540.
That’s above and beyond what city residents pay in school district taxes. If you live in Jordan, you’re being nicked twice for CERC before you ever become a member.
Oh, and about those memberships. The superintendent said there are 2,000 memberships, and 4,000 members. If a membership costs $245 per year (the average of adult, family, and senior membership fees), that’s $490,000 per year in dues collected. Couple membership fees with the city’s gift of $56,000 and you’re looking at a cool half million plus per year to operate CERC. Oh, and let’s not forget that the school district charges user fees for such things as volleyball or basketball tournaments. Am I the only one who remembers being told CERC was planned to be self-supporting?
The superintendent claims that I am not accurately presenting facts — facts he himself provided. Then he goes on to say about the district’s budget increase: “Another significant reason for the increase is due to the increased state aid that all public schools have received.”
Huh? The school district is getting more money from the state, so the school district needs a referendum? I admit I’m math challenged, but that statement simply doesn’t compute.
And inflation? This year’s school district budget is about 60% more than in 2009. Today’s prices are 19.59% higher than in 2009. Again, math challenged. But that looks like about a 3:1 ratio of spending increase to cost of living increase to me.
OK. I’ve said my piece. You make up your own mind.
The Quote: “We should not have to experience the fear of intimidation or retaliation in the United States.” -Mercedes Schlapp, former director of strategic communications in the Trump administration.