The April 7th vote: why I am voting YES for the $144 million

As Jim Dye of the News-Gazette said this morning, it is a very tough choice to vote “NO” or “YES” on the April 7th $144 million referendum item; there are major deficiencies on both sides of the fence, as well as really good points in favor of each side. As a voter, it is easy to have doubts one way or the other.

But the clincher for me happened yesterday at noon while I was driving near Prospect and Bradley. There is a very large billboard with the KCC (Keep Central Central) “Vote NO” ad. When I saw that, my mind was made up. That sign alone is responsible for catapulting me solidly over in to the YES camp. Why? Aside from my distaste for billboards in general, I personally view this particular ad as a colossal waste of money; if you care so much about public education, put your money where your mouth is.

If anyone spots a YES billboard around town, let me know before April 7th. 🙂

I encourage you to go read Jim Dye’s editorial this morning:

http://www.news-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2015-03-22/vote-yes-unit-4-plan.html

I would disagree with Mr. Dye on at least one point:

“the school district has put together a plan that’s about as good as it can under the circumstances.”

First I would give credit to many (many) people who have put in a ton of effort to this very end; a lot of folks have spent hours upon hours going over different alternatives, not just for a high school location, but also what to fix up, remodel, and renovate. I also give credit to some of the efforts in engaging the community in so-called “dialogues” or “discussions”, which opened the door to greater community involvement. But the current plan is as good as it gets “under the circumstances”? No, I don’t think so; no charrettes, no truly open public deliberation, no phased planning (all one lump sum, with everything else being deferred until 1% sales tax money is freed up). Instead, we have had a number of very vocal people come to the table again and again. I am also told that when the architects went to deliver the bad news to Centennial staff about the abrupt change in referendum dollars, they (the HS staff) were none too happy. Obviously the Dr. Howard folks are happy, the Centennial folks not so much. The changes for Centennial still do not make a lot of sense to me. But this is as good as it gets (“under the circumstances”)? I cannot swallow that.

We could go down the list of sins committed by either camp, and then match that up with the very valid and good points made by each side as well. In my mind, it turns into a zero-sum game, which I believe will be evidenced by the results on April 7th with a fairly close vote again. As I have said in the past, my hope is for a super-majority vote to agree one way or the other. Otherwise I would contend that we have failed to build consensus.

But what pisses me off the most are the political shenanigans and the underhanded tricks in both camps; the billboard was the last straw. That really needs to end on April 7th. And I truly believe that many of the school board candidates will help do that.

I like how Mr. Dye concludes his article (next to last paragraph):

“All that aside, however, it’s important the public meets its responsibility to fund a school system that provides all students an opportunity to learn and be successful.”

Or as Dr. Edna Olive of Rocket, Inc says:

“(t)he education and support of children is some of the world’s most important work.”

Ultimately, voters have to decide for themselves if a $144 million bond referendum fulfils the goal of funding such a school system. I already know several of you readers fall on one side of that question or the other.

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14 Responses to “The April 7th vote: why I am voting YES for the $144 million”

  1. pattsi Says:

    Can anyone provide the following information since it is not included in the recent Unit 4 mailing. What is the total cost of the referendum, including interest over 20 years, and what funds will be used to cover the cost of interest related to other Unit 4 expenses–property taxes + 1% sales tax?

  2. John Bambenek Says:

    You know we can’t answer the question of what the exact interest cost is because we won’t know the interest rate until we actually go to borrow. In fact, we may not even spend the full 144. That said using google to find the current 20 year muni bond interest rate I used a simple mortgage calculator to come up with 185M or so.

    As far as the other maintenance costs, we have presented the master facility plan at least a half dozen meetings since I have been on the board. Even a few meetings I recall you were at. We helpfully place this plan on our website: http://www.champaignschools.org/sites/default/files/20_Year_Master_Facility_Plan100814.pdf

    The short version is 2025 we will start using the 1% sales tax again assuming the referendum passes. If the referendum does not pass, likely we will defer that in favor of at least addressing Dr. Howard (but even that we may not be able to do) and paying for the trailers to house 800-1000 kids come 2022.

  3. pattsi Says:

    John, I completely understand not being able to give an exact amount that interest might cost, but one can always state based on today’s interest rates for X amount stated in the referendum for 20 years will approximately cost Y. We do this all the time at the county when we are considering our budget and what something might cost that we are discussing. I have even gotten the county to list cost of salary and benefits when we are discussing any salaries so we have the full financial picture.

  4. rochf Says:

    Charles, while I respect your opinion, the quote that you included from Jim Dey and then rightfully disagree with, is the very reason that I’m voting no and encouraging others to vote no. I have never seen such a flawed process, and I have never seen such disdain and disrespect of the public by elected officials. However, I could set that aside if the plan they were proposing was meritorious. I’m not willing to entrust two hundred million dollars, or whatever the figure ends up being, with a board who is so clearly wedded to a flawed plan, and attacks opponents at every turn.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Which is exactly why it is so paramount to elect good board members. 🙂 And ergo why I have said it is more important whom we elect as board members over and above how we vote on the referendum.

      After electing board members, we the stakeholders, tax payers and voters are obligated to hold board members accountable. We must not be satisfied with complaining and waiting until the next opportunity to vote.

      It really does come down to trust. If you do not trust them, you are very wise to vote against the referendum. As is everyone else. Trust is a personal issue, and something you have to work out with the members of the board.

  5. rochf Says:

    Charles, thanks for such a thoughtful and respectful reply. I wish Unit 4 would do more of the same–they might not be fighting so hard for support.

  6. Sal Says:

    I voted yes the first round, and am on the fence now, though leaning no. As an educator myself (I am not a Unit 4 teacher) I absolutely, fully, 100% support the need for improved facilities to create an environment in which all kids can learn. Absolutely, I agree with you. However, the plan that Unit 4 has married themselves to has some pretty big flaws.

    The biggest issue for me is equity with regard to the proposed Central High School location. The Interstate Drive location is very far away from the residential neighborhoods in which many of Champaign’s minority students and those of lower socioeconomic status reside, and is also not in the areas of town experiencing the most residential development (that’s largely happening in SW Champaign). I can’t help but think – what if a kid misses the bus? For many of Champaign’s students, particularly those from families of lower socioeconomic status, there isn’t an available parent at home to drive them, and it’s awfully far to bike or walk. This is hardly a neighborhood school – it’s barely within city limits. I wonder if one of the alternatives put forth by the Keep Central Central folks might not be better suited to meeting our students’ needs while also strengthening the community?

    It’s a tough call and one I will struggle with until voting day. I’ve never voted no for an education referendum or levy, and it would feel terrible to do so. If Central HS wasn’t tied to the other improvements this would be easier (I think everyone on the planet agrees Dr. Howard is in terrible condition) – but that’s probably exactly what Unit 4 is banking on.

  7. Sharlene Says:

    I totally agree and was so disgusted by that billboard, as well as all the flyers that kept being stuck in my door. It made me wonder how this campaign got so much money and where they were getting it from. This obviously goes way beyond ordinary citizens having their say.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      From another local blogger:
      “Early morning, the day following the election, I was flying out of Willard airport for business in New Orleans (by way of Dallas) and as I checked in, I heard a loud, white male, bragging about the defeat of all of the “incumbents” on the school board. I turned around to look at him and did not recognize his face, but could not help noticing how he appeared to be wealthy, old, and out of touch. It was jarring and sobering…”

      • pattsi Says:

        Unfortunately, as is all too often done, you have taken a part of the full blog that goes into more depth about this and how the community might move forward. It is disappointing to read this very skewed post mentio

      • charlesdschultz Says:

        @Pattsi, Care to elaborate? 🙂

  8. pattsi Says:

    to continue the posting since it is impossible to edit on this site. It is very disappointing to read a skewed post from another blog wherein the conversation probably is out of context.

  9. pattsi Says:

    The blog that you quote from tucks into a much longer thought piece an over heard conversation out of context. You, then, take the over heard conversation totally out of the longer thought context. Even though you link to the original blog, the first question is how many readers will go and read the full post. Second question is how much different are you than other bloggers and, especially, political writers who do this all of the time to skew a situation. The April election outcome was very political.


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