The title of this post is a link to the audio recording of the November 9 meeting on the disposition of the bond "surplus." You can click on the link to listen to Mike Maloney's explanation of the fund balance (surplus) remaining in the 2008 high school bond. I've only included the first 16 minutes of so of the meeting but would be happy to post the remainder if anyone is interested in the full two+ hours. Joseph Hunter was sick that evening and did not attend the meeting. The people asking questions are Steve Moser, Mike Ainsworth, Kathy Zehner, Eric Olsen, and Jon Carey. The documents they refer to are reproduced above. Fund 401 is the 2008 bond; Fund 403 is the Capital Improvement Fund that resides within the district's annual operating budget.
There are several issues that come up in this discussion: 1) The so-called "artificial turf" project in Fund 403 includes many elements that were originally part of the bond but are now going to paid for with the new $2 million low-interest stimulus loans; 2) Calling the entirety of the stadium upgrades "turf" is causing confusion and discord - the artificial turf itself, along with the field preparations, cost far less than $1.2 million (around half of the total); 3) The bond is not really under budget - things promised as part of the bond have been shifted to Fund 403 and will be paid for with the new loans.
I do wish someone had asked this question, "Last spring we were told that all bond funds had been either expended or encumbered with only $45,000 remaining in the budget. Now you say we can pay for the eye clinic with bond funds and still have an $831,000 fund balance. Where was this money last April?"
I strongly suspect that this money was hidden away so that the 16th Street project, long desired by Hunter, could proceed as planned.
I doubt that will happen anytime soon. The general sentiment of the group (I was there as an observer, not a participant) is that it makes more sense to leave the portables in place at the high school for the foreseeable future. Four of them are currently in use. If they are moved to the 16th Street site, the teen parents and the alternative education program will once again need to be moved, along with the apartment program that is part of the life skills training for special education students. Mike Maloney suggested that they could move into the high school which is, in my opinion, a terrible and completely unworkable idea. The teen parents need to have the day care restored but the day care cannot and should not be housed in the high school. We already know that the alternative education kids don't do well in the regular high school environment and need an off-site location. And where would we locate the apartment program within the high school?
There was also some discussion about moving any projects currently planned in Fund 403, that can legally be paid for with bond monies, back into the bond budget. These projects would include some elements of the stadium project and all of the HVAC upgrades for other schools. This would pretty much eliminate the bond surplus once some of the small projects (extra lighting, some painting, etc) remaining at the high school are completed. It was suggested by Barb Welander that we could then pay down the principle on the low-interest loans in Fund 403 and lessen the impact of the 16 year repayment schedule on the general fund. Currently, the district will have to pay around $130,000 annually for those loans.
There are obviously a lot of decisions that need to be made. Additional meetings have not yet been scheduled but I'll keep you posted.
On October 26, I asked the question on this blog, "Why hasn't Joseph Hunter signed his contract?" Two days later, he did. I still don't know why the contract remained unsigned for four months. In the listening sessions at the board meeting, Paul Evans suggested that it was a kind of solidarity with the teachers - until they had a contract to sign, the superintendent's would not be signed either. That doesn't make much sense to me as his contract had already been negotiated and ratified by the board. I still think the most likely explanation is that he was hoping to still have the option of negotiating a nice settlement package as he leaves our district.
The editorial reproduced above was written by Tom Perry nearly a decade ago. His antipathy toward teachers is long-standing and predates the arrival of Joseph Hunter to our district by several years. I've also included a letter that appeared in the Itemizer-Observer in response to his rant.
If our teachers are really the blood-thirsty, money-grubbing mob described by Mr. Perry, then Joseph Hunter deserves to be fired immediately for leaving them in charge of our children every day.
I'll leave it to you to decide whether his description of the teachers in our district is accurate. My son is a senior this year and I have yet to encounter a teacher who even remotely resembles the monsters he describes here and in the letter he is currently circulating. The teachers I have met care about their students. They come in early, stay late, and give up their own lunch breaks to meet with students. They remember the kids long after they have left their classrooms and come to watch them perform in the high school play, win a basketball championship, and receive a diploma at graduation. To suggest that their main motivation is monetary is laughable - no one goes into teaching for the money (or the prestige or the light work load).
I believe this is just another attempt to create a distraction. The more time people spend worrying about being sued by Mike Maloney, condemned by Stan Peterson, or vilified by Tom Perry, the less time they will have to contemplate Joseph Hunter's failure of leadership. That is the real problem.
I have been provided with a copy of Tom Perry's remarks to the School Board, only a part of which he was allowed to present at last Monday's board meeting. I'm debating whether to post a copy here because it's likely to set off a firestorm. He makes some pretty scurrilous charges against the teacher's union which he incorrectly believes is behind the current letter of no confidence. He has not one shred of evidence for that belief but that doesn't stop him from making the claim.
Let me set the record straight: The letter of no confidence is being circulated by a group of community members who are fed up with the situation in our district. THE TEACHER'S UNION HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. There are no teachers who are part of the group, the letter was not written by teachers, teachers are not signing it. How then did he conclude that the CEA was behind it?
Tom Perry's contempt for our teachers oozes from every sentence of his letter. He urges Joseph Hunter to play hard ball in the on-going contract negotiations and force the teachers to either accept whatever the district is ready to offer or go to strike. And that will improve the quality of education in our district in exactly what way?
I hope that our Board has better sense than to give credence to his unsubstantiated ravings. Following his advice will lead us down a path no one wishes to tread and will do irreparable harm to our children and to our community.
In a document prepared last April (see first image above), the bond manager recorded $48,111,605 in total bond resources with $48,039,131 either expended or encumbered. That left only $46,279 available in the bond fund.
In a document presented at this month's board meeting (see second image above), the total bond revenues are recorded as $48,194,944. This is consistent with the revenues reported in April as there have been some additions from interest and energy rebates. Yet somehow, miraculously, we now have a surplus in the bond budget of $831,454.
In reality, the surplus would appear to be over $1 million. When the 2010-2011 budget for the district was adopted back in June, there was $207,000 set aside in Fund 403 to pay for the remaining debt incurred in the purchase of the Knowles' eye clinic (third image above). That debt has now been transferred back into the bond - Fund 401.
So somehow, in the six months between April and October, an extra $1 million was found in the bond. Where did it come from? Did they lose track of this money in the budget only to rediscover it later? That doesn't strike me as very competent fiscal management. Did they squirrel it away so they would be sure to have enough to complete the 16th Street project after all? That doesn't strike me as very honest fiscal management.
If we had a surplus, why in the world did we borrow an additional $2 million in Qualified School Construction Bonds? The QSCB loans, by the way, will cost the district approximately $125,000 annually over a repayment period of 16 years.
One possible answer to where the money came from can perhaps be discerned by examining the transfer of bond projects out of the bond and into Fund 403 - the Capital Improvement Fund (fourth image above). The largest expenditure in Fund 403 is $1,230,985 for the athletic facility. According to document 1 above (April 2010), $290,000 of the $1.2 million to be spent on the athletic facility (often referred to erroneously as the "turf project"), was to come from the bond. Instead, the entire cost was transferred to Fund 403, including that $290,000, which will now be paid for using the QSCB bonds. Fund 403 also includes an expenditure of $499,882 for HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) upgrades at schools throughout the district. These were also to be included in the bond (see the Notice of Bond Election above) although I'm not sure they were ever in the actual bond budget.
So here we have $800,000 in bond projects that have been transferred to Fund 403 and will be paid for using the new QSCB loans and an $800,000 surplus in the original bond. Maybe its just a coincidence?
If the scenario I have sketched out is not correct, we are still left with one essential question: Last spring the bond resources were all expended or encumbered. Now we have a very large surplus. WHERE DID THE SURPLUS COME FROM?
How can the superintendent keep saying that the bond is under budget when the budget has been so obviously manipulated? Is this why he has never provided anyone, including board members who have requested it, with a detailed, line-item bond budget? Did he ask the Board to approve $2 million in new loans so that he could claim to bring the bond in under budget?
Thanks to the efforts of an enterprising high school student (and his mother) we now have video of school board meetings. Scroll down to the first one and then work your way up and you can view the first hour and a half of last Monday's meeting. Unfortunately, the meeting went longer than anticipated, the battery wore down, and some of the business meeting was not recorded. We do have most of it and it is especially good to be able to hear the candidates for the Board position and the comments from the public. I will continue to post video of the meetings as they become available.
Someone sent me this link to the K12 Democracy Project on iSolon.org. The organizer, J. H. Snider argues that there is an epidemic of fake democracy in our public schools and that one part of the solution will be to make greater use of new information technologies (blogs perhaps?).
I looked up one of the articles mentioned and made a copy of the first page for you. The scene from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy made me laugh out loud and then cringe due to its eerie similarity to information flows in our own school district.
The full text of the article can be found on-line at The International Journal of Public Participation, Volume 4, Number 1 (Janurary 2010), pp. 89-102. Definitely worth checking out.
After some reflection, I have decided to restore the option of posting comments anonymously because I want us to be able to talk to one another about these issues. Most of the comments posted thus far have been completely appropriate questions or statements of fact or personal opinion. In the future I will be ruthless in deleting any comments that I feel are unwarranted personal attacks, much more so than previously. And yes, I get to decide because it's my blog. If you have other things to say you will have to say them elsewhere.
It has been clear from the beginning that Joseph Hunter was determined to move the portables down to the 16th Street site. Now that they have miraculously "found" over $800,000 in the bond budget (more on that very soon!), he may just get his wish.
This meeting is a board work session and is thus open to the public. While it is highly unlikely that they will take public input, it would be a good idea for folks to show up and see what develops. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday (Nov. 9) at the high school.
Noticeably absent from the invitation list is the principal of the high school. Wasn't this the high school bond?
I received this message from a teacher following the distribution of the memo that Joseph Hunter sent to all district staff last week. The sentiments expressed are widely shared throughout our district these days.
This is the message Robin delivered to the Board at Monday's meeting. He's been working on this issue off and on for several years now. Hopefully, with time and persistence, the Board will agree to put the district's financial data and budget on-line in a format that is accessible and easy to use. Thanks for your efforts, Robin.