Facebook 2022 LTISD Bond Information Page – Open Dialogue??
So just how serious is the Committee about having an open dialogue between the Committee and the community? We understand not having the answers for everything but if we are aiming for “open and transparent process” for this “complicated” topic (as is stated in their “About” section), why aren’t we having the conversation? Just asking out loud… Post submission follows:
Love, love this article from Forbes.
Forbes Magazine “Yes, No Tax Increase Bonds Increase Your Taxes” Article<nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.forbes.com%2Fsites%2Fmikemcshane%2F2019%2F03%2F26%2Fyes-no-tax-increase-bonds-increase-your-taxes%2F%3Fsh%3D21bd66c4500c&data=05%7C01%7…>
The article makes 3 points: A) No Tax Increase Bonds are not honest. B) Saying that bonds don’t increase taxes thwarts oversight, transparency, and accountability. C) It creates an illusion that things we want don’t cost money. Here’s my take on how this article applies to LTISD:
1. Thankfully, Texas has a law which states that the Propositions must tell voters that Bond Propositions are tax increases. The question for us is: By how much? To my knowledge, Maintenance & Operations (M&O) increases in the operating budget have not been shared. Have they even been developed?
In Corporate World, if you go to a Capital Committee and ask for a new plant to be built, you prepare the Capital Request, but you also prepare the expected return and expected operational costs.
What is our Return on Education for a $3M Barn, a $1.2M Outdoor Golf hitting bays and putting green area, $1.6M in Shade Structures, etc., etc.? Should consumables like Uniforms and Instructional Materials be part of a Capital Project request with interest paid for up to 40 years? That doesn’t make sense.
What are the Operating Costs (Personnel, A/C, utilities, insurance, etc.) for a $44M Competition Arena, a $25M Maintenance Building, the new HS, the HS expansion and 2 new Elementary Schools? Does anyone know? Please share.
1. Not recognizing that bonds increase taxes thwarts oversight, transparency, and accountability.
In recent Public Comments and communications to LTISD Leadership, I have been saying that we need improved Due Diligence (aka oversight), Transparency and Accountability. So suffice it to say, I believe this is a key issue for us.
Where are the detailed reports from the paid consultant who delivered the Facilities Conditions Assessment (FCA) Reports? The voters are being asked to approve $39M in work. Did the Committee review the detailed reports? Indications are no. What we can see is a published list of bullet points with a big subtotal estimate per school that adds up to $39M. The Board said that they had all the data that the Committee had. So, if that is all true, then the Committee, the Board, and the Voters do not have these assessment reports available to them to understand the details behind the $39M. Where is the Due Diligence?
Right now, it seems we are on the path that “The Buck Stops Here” will lie with the voters. Committee Members on this Page have said why don’t you just wait until the Board passes the propositions? I’d say the Committee and the Board would be better served to scrub these details and make some hard choices on what they “need” vs. what they “want” to avoid voters turning these propositions down to avoid propelling us to $1 billion in debt for “wants” or unbelievable / unsubstantiated major money.
1. Which leads us to the last point: things we want do cost money.
We get that. We want a new High School. We want a new Elementary School – at least 1 now, not sure we need 2 right now when we are showing that we don’t leverage current capacity very well. (We have 2 Elementary Schools overcrowded yet we are at 83% capacity with 2 schools at under 70% capacity.) New schools cost money which we want to approve. But that is only ½ of the story in these propositions.
There are many, many line items which we “want” and therefore cost money. But do we really “need” ALL of this, given that we “really need” a few new schools and some new Science classrooms? It appears that the $703M was recommended by the Committee because our financial advisor determined that it was just within our debt capacity. I’m not sure any of the asks were cut. The Committee just upvoted every line item on the list because we could. So if you get a $10,000 line of credit approved on a credit card, do you go on a $9,750 shopping spree because you can? That’s the equivalent approach being taken with our tax monies. Our shopping spree is $703M to break in our new credit card. And oh, effective interest rate and administration fees not disclosed, sorry.
The District’s own mission statement says it “will serve as a model of educational excellence by making use of the combined skills of students, teachers, support staff, involved parents and citizens through the efficient use of resources.” Our community is generous and supportive. Voters will provide the monies for the needs, but before we agree to the $1 billion debt level with corresponding, unspecified tax increases, we are going to ask ourselves if the District is living up to its own mission statement. Do we have educational excellence through efficient use of resources? Let’s get there together.