Taxes and Capital Improvements

I have been following the WakeEd blog (from the Wake County News Observer); recently, T. Keung Hui posted noticed that the school board passed a resolution to ask for $939.9 million in funding. That’s right, $940 million.

I did some digging around to put things in perspective. First, I knew that Wake County was much larger than Champaign Unit 4 – like two orders of magnitude larger. Their 2012-2013 projected enrollment is 149,508. So I asked how such a large referendum ($810 million, not the full $940) translates to property tax increases, and Keung replied it is about $55 on a $100,000 home. Get this, Wake County (WCPS) has been passing bond referendums on a fairly regular schedule, its actually quite impressive:

Year $Million per $100,000
2000 500 34.13580247*
2004 564 38.50518519*
2006 970 66.22345679*
2013 810 55.3
total 2844 194.1644444

* Using the 2013 tax rate of $55.3 per $100,000 on a $810 million bond – these are not actual values. If you know them, please let me know.

 

With that money, they have built, on average, 14 new schools and renovated, on average, 21 schools per referendum. Or for a total of 42 new schools and 62 renovated schools, prior to 2013. Wow! And that cost $139 per $100,000 in property taxes (again, subtracting out the 2013 value). Not too shabby.

In comparison, Unit 4 wants $180 per $100,000 in 2014 and another $70 in 2018. The working cash bond of 2012 works out to roughly $16.67 per $100,000. There is already controversy about the 2014 referendum; there is even not much consensus on what direction to head in.

The point of this post is to look at other school districts and see how they do capital improvements. I just happened to watch WCPS because they are tied up with Alves “Controlled Choice” thing as well, just played out on a much larger scale. I wonder what other school districts are doing. How do they get to the point that they can pass referendums every so often, backed by a well-thought out plan?

Sources:

May 13th board meeting, taxes

I have uploaded the video of the May 13th board meeting:

http://www.cb-pta.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/board_meetings/2013-05-13-regular-board-meeting.mp4

And Meg Dickinson has her article from Monday night:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2013-05-13/board-asks-administration-plan-finding-site-new-central.html

There are several other sources around I have stumbled upon that I cannot link;

  • Saturday NG Meg Dickinson article (print-only) about the taxes from a possible referendum (similar to the Monday night wrap-up but with much more detail)
  • Today’s WDWS talk with Stephanie Stuart (for some reason, I can’t find any recent podcasts between Moline and Stuart, even from last month)
  • Fox News aired a clip about taxes (how does one look for local news on Fox’s website?)

Yes you can

I had a really good talk with a very involved Unit 4 parent today and we spent a bit of time dancing around the topic of advocacy. One of the things we discovered during our conversation is that the only reason why we have this need for advocacy in the first place is because the system and society that we live in right now has power structures that are oppressive (and history tells us that this has been going on for a long long time); by “oppressive” I mean that the voice of dissent is consistently and systematically squashed. What confuses me is why the masses continue to abide by this twisted reality, why we accommodate it and thus permit it. I know, you are thinking that the nature of oppression in the first place is to basically make sure the status quo is maintained, enslaving the will of those oppressed and thereby to force accommodation. To rape one’s sense of being and worth.

 

But we don’t have to accommodate at all. We can speak out against it. And in fact, I think we have a moral obligation to do so.

 

You think I am being melodramatic – I can tell by the way you are itching to move on to the next thing. Bear with me a moment more. I heard a story of a child who was uncomfortable with the “inappropriate” play of another child. The first child told the attending teacher and nothing happened. The child then went to the next level (someone higher) and things started happening (good for the first child, not so good for the second). The child has learned an important lesson of advocating for self; a pretty rare trait in one so young, but a very crucial one to learn none-the-less. I heard another story of a young girl who witnessed a friend being bullied. Filled with indignation, she told the bullies to stop and walked her friend away from the situation. This was a powerful story of advocating for someone else; she saw something was wrong and could not abide by it, but was compelled to make the situation right.

 

Frequently I hear of parents who struggle to successfully and satisfactorily engage the system of our public schools. Please note, I do hear many success stories as well – the change in Unit 4 since the beginning of 2012 has been significant, even if subtle. Yet there are still those cases where parents, or even other stakeholders, attempt to assail the walls of bureaucracy only to be rebuffed and thrown back. In such cases I want to implore you not to give up. I want to shout “Yes you can!”. You say you are but one person. Yes, I know, so am I.

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”

— attributed to Mother Teresa

 

If something is not right, if something is objectionable or just plain wrong, say something about it. And don’t stop until Read the rest of this entry »

Wake County does their own version of "Working Cash Bonds"

Dialogue with Crystal Ligon

Crystal and I were discussing my Dec 1st post, and I wanted to post my responses to her questions in the off-chance that others might appreciate the extra information.

Q:About how many people came to the meeting? Was it a different crowd from the last time?
A:8 people total, including the host (Sky Sanborn) and myself. Very different crowd. As I mentioned in the blog, no one had a child in Unit 4, and I feel that had a direct influence on the discussion.

Q:This seems to be a popular issue Savoy residents have. Do you mind telling me who are the Johnsons are? Do you have contact information for them? I will have to check up and see how much Unit 4 spends on busing. I think that was one of your questions as well.
A:The Johnsons live nearby both of us, and were represented at the first meeting. In fact, that is where I learned about the hour-long bus rides. I will ask if I can share their contact information.

Q:I’m not sure if I understand…isn’t Prairie Meadows the subdivision on the other side of Church Street? Do you mean an additional sales tax hike? Do you have names or contact information of people who seemed to be in favor or not in favor of this?
A:Doh, I am an idiot. What is the subdivision that would be on West Tomaras? In regards to the Sales Tax, no I meant the one that will most likely be on the spring ballot – the same one we just voted on in November. I will ask if folks mind giving out the names in terms of favoring the tax. I myself am still undecided, despite how I voted in November. *grin*

Q:Did you guys come up with any answers for some of these questions? Was there leaning either which way?
A:No specific answers yet, but definitely some leanings. There was a strong desire to get a school in Prairie Fields (do to the land being donated and sitting idle) the quickest way possible. Those particular questions were along the lines of brainstorming – how to get a school ASAP? If the law can be changed, that opens up the door to other possibilities. As a side note, my personal feeling remains that the fastest and most cost-effective path to a Prairie Fields school is to pass the Sales Tax, whenever the next opportunity arises.

Q:Do you mean using a sales tax to help build a private school (which probably could not happen in a legal sense) or school district? Or do you mean those two items were separately talked about? How would you like to see a sales tax used to fund Unit 4? Where do you think this angst for Unit 4 came from?
A:It is possible “angst” is too strong a word; I would ask that you not print that. =) I never thought about the Sales Tax outside of Unit 4, so that was not my intent when I wrote that blurb about the sales tax. I agree, I do not see how it would help a private school by any means, and for all practical purposes, the Sales Tax will pass long before Savoy forms its own district (personally, the chances of us forming our own district seem to waver between extremely thing and none). How would I like to see the tax used? My voice carries absolutely no weight on that matter; the school board has already dictated where the money will go. If I had my druthers, I would like to see significantly more cooperation between all entities involved; groups that stood to gain were strongly in favor, groups that would not gain were opposed, and only one group had an even slightly cogent and balanced approach (the Chamber of Commerce). And lastly, where did the “bad feelings” come from? I am the wrong person to ask; I will answer to the best of my ability. Most likely, my perception is that there is a general frustration among parents who bought homes with the elusive carrot being waved by Realtors – “Move to Prairie Fields and watch a school spring up in your midst”. I know my Realtor mentioned that, which is why I have involved myself on this mission to find information. =) But back to the point – I heard a number of folks say that they were told there would be a school. And we have no school. Instead, we have many buses and our children all go to different schools.

Q:Do you mean pass the sales tax in the same sentiment that was talked about in the Nov. 4 election? You remain uncomfortable with the idea, could you elaborate on your own personal concerns? Is what you’re saying that even with a Proximity A choice for Savoy residents, which would mean Savoy residents would have an 80 percent chance of getting into the Prox. A school, you do not like this system? What do you mean by “atmosphere” of the Consent Decree?
A:The same sentiment? My own sentiment? =) Not quite sure what you meant by that. I am quite torn about the Tax because there are many good and bad things. On the good side, I really like how it will offset property taxes for a short time (5, 7 years?); I like how it will be used to pay off bond debt; I like how it will be used improve infrastructure; I like how it cannot be used for salaries and other items outside Capital Improvement; I like that it will eventually be used for a school in Savoy. I both like and dislike the lack of a sunset-clause; I straddle the fence because on the one hand it allows the school district to have more freedom in pursuing costs associated with buildings without havig to depend on referendums, and this community has shown in the past few years that it will vote down any such referendums. On the other hand, I dislike it for the same reason; the community should have some power and ownership over what the school board does. I think one of the issues with our (Champaign) community is that we do not have that sense of ownership, thus there is a lot of divisiveness, finger pointing and general lack of interest. I am starting to think that perhaps the Sales Tax is a lesser evil than no Sales Tax. I just wish that the districts would make it more palatable, perhaps drop it to half a percent instead of the full one percent.
Note that I did not say anything about how I feel about the school system or “schools of controlled choice”. At least, I do not believe I did, even after looking at what I wrote. =) Some of the parents who attended the Dec 1st meeting mentioned that even if we do get a school in Savoy, the Controlled Choice program may require that some of our students go to a different school. I think the clear implication is “That is not fair.” I look forward to learning how Greg Novak’s “Socio-Economic Status” metric is going to work for the Controlled Choice lottery.
The “atmosphere” of the Consent Decree. Basically, my observation is that a lot of people are really fed up with it. I also observe that a lot of these people are white (some I have heard from on IlliniPundit, so I am not sure of their ethnic background, but those folks I do know make up the majority). I have talked to African Americans and they are not fed up with it. Why is that? Why did African American pastors urge their congregations to vote down the 2006 Referendum when the “north school” would have gone to Boulder Ridge? There is a lot of distrust on both sides of the fence. In fact, the Honorable Judge McDade gave both parties a minor wrist slapping for not working better with each other. Imani Bazzel has tried hard to work with Unit 4 (the “Great Campus” initiative), but the idea hit a brick wall with the previous school board. Melodye Rosales has tried to get both sides to see that Hispanics are really loosing out on the current Consent Decree (they are counted as “non African American”, or “Non Afr Am” in the documentation). In my own efforts to learn more about the Plaintiff party, I have been completely unable to make contact with Carol Ashley or her law firm, and there are no local spokespeople; I would have love to have talked to Tracy Parsons, but he is person-non-grata right now. Something is definitely awry.

Q:Are there any specific current expenses that you think are not worthwhile? Or is this something you are saying needs to be done?
A:I do not have any numbers yet; I have not had the time to dig into this particular avenue. A couple folks at the Dec 1st meeting were contractors and stated that the “prevailing wage” used by local unions is standard across the whole state when dealing with state-funded entities, and they led me to believe that attempting to get the prevailing wage lowered would be impossible. Gene Logas (Unit 4 CFO) has been taking a hard look at the Unit 4 budget and has been working to trim it down; he is a very smart fellow, and I would love to talk more with him about his efforts.

Q:Does this mean developing action on your ideas?

A:Yes. Can I leave it at that? *grin*

Gene Logas – 13 Nov 2008

I had a brief dialogue today with Gene Logas. I initially asked him to explain the tax levy a little more, since I had no idea what it was or how it is used. On top of givig me a very succint but thorough reply, he also mentioned the CTAB website (which I have added under Research). There are some very interesting documents on that website, especially the latest finding from September 2008.

Gene seems like a very intelligent fellow who is ready and willing to share what he knows. I would encourage folks to take advantage (in a good, civil way *grin*) of this resource.