Education

School Bond Opposition Explained

The GUARDIAN takes no position on the upcoming Boise school bond issue. We will gladly offer space to views from either side. This reader/writer has connections with the District so we granted anonymity, but we know the identity.

Guest Opinion By
ED U. KATE

As early voting begins for school bond elections it’s time to seriously consider voting NO
on the Boise School District Bond proposal. I plan on voting NO! Here are some things to think about.

The proposed 2017 bond is $ 172 million – nearly double the $ 94 million 2006 bond
amount and very close to the recently defeated $ 180 million CWI bond proposal.
The current proposal takes a “something for everybody” approach. It even includes $65,000 for upgrades at District Headquarters. You’d think those upgrades would be paid for with annual budget monies but no, they’re part of the Bond.

The 1996 Boise Schools bond levy is expiring and the 2012 Boise Schools temporary
operating supplemental levy is expiring. Your tax levy rate should be decreasing. It’s
not. Seems both levy rates are being “extended” by the District to pay for the proposed
$ 172 million bond.

Is it more than coincidence Boise District taxpayers see new bond proposals each time
an older bond expires? No, it’s not.

The District says the schools are overcrowded but it continues a program known as
Open Enrollment which allows out of District (think West Ada among others) students to
attend Boise Schools. That same policy allows District students living in one school area to attend school in another school area.

And it seems adjustments to current school boundaries to relieve overcrowding are off
the table. Nothing like not being pro-active.

Using “community partnerships” the District plans to make a major expansion to the
Professional – Educational (Vo -Tech) program. The question here (which, of course,
will go unanswered) does this not duplicate what CWI is supposing to be doing? Boise Schools is employing the same tactics this time around that it used in the 2006 ELECTION.

Comments & Discussion

24 comments for “School Bond Opposition Explained”

  1. School Board documents for this bond need to be more transparent and explain what they mean, when they say in bold, this bond will NOT increase the property tax rate. Are they trying to say my property taxes will not increase? What do they mean by rate?

    Also I think each bond for any public project needs to clearly state in all documents including marketing documents the combined total of principal and interest payments. If only the issue amount of the bond is stated, it is dramatically under-reporting the actual amount of debt the citizens are accepting.

  2. Amen. Key to this scam is levy replacement exactly matching the expiring bond levies to make it seem like there’s no tax increase, but they’re proposing $8-10K of indebtedness per student.

  3. I voted for the bond, but struggled with the decision. The points made above are valid. I voted yes because I see it as a solid investment. I won’t be one of those whose kids are raised and start voting no.

  4. Levy rates stay even, but increased value in your property raises your taxes. Saying the levy won’t increase is misleading. However, the literature did say that it was relying on increased values, so it was honest to a degree.

  5. Cowpoke twice removed
    Mar 2, 2017, 3:48 pm

    Because CWI offers Vo-Tech classes BSD shouldn’t? Boise State offers English classes so maybe BSD shouldn’t. I forget, are CWI & BSU free to high school students? What a bizarre connection to make.

    Open enrollment is a net gain for the BSD’s budget which means a reduction in the levy. The state pays the school districts a set amount per student. If you have a class with room in it and can fill it with an out of district kid that class now brings in more state money without with minimal increase in cost. As a side benefit, West Ada is helped by reducing their student population somewhat which alleviates classroom overcrowding and possibly even the need for more schools.
    BSD allows open enrollment for both in and out of district students ONLY if there is space available. If neighborhood kids need that space the out of district kids go back where they came from. I experienced this first hand as my son lost his spot in a north end elementary school because of an influx of kids that moved into the neighborhood. He now attends our local school.

  6. Cowpoke twice removed
    Mar 2, 2017, 7:11 pm

    Well said TFBoy. I suppose it’s human nature to see less value to yourself after your kids are grown. Hopefully I too can overcome that nasty bit of human nature. My parents sure didn’t. I called my Dad on it when he said why should he pay for schools when he didn’t have any kids in school. I reminded him that he had two kids spend 24 years, a grandson good for 13 and his youngest grandson currently enrolled.

  7. The state legislature has become a puppet of ALEC (thanks Idaho voters) and can no longer be trusted to properly fund public education. It’s interesting that the legislature is cutting taxes while pretty much every education district in the area is running bonds. The legislature has definitely shown they will not make strategic investments and are not a long-term reliable partner in educating the children in our state.

    The bond is appealing in that (unlike state taxes) I know the money will be made in district facilities, which definitely need the investment. Facilities are definitely a big part of the puzzle that helps the BSD retain and attract teachers and maintain its lofty standing within the state.

    For me the decision on the bond is easy.

  8. This bond will take care of overcrowding and eliminate portable classrooms at schools like Whittier with 13 portables, Longfellow(4), Higlands(4), ValleyView(6),and PiecePark(6). According to BSD, there are 108 portables being used at all of their schools. These portables were meant to be a temporary solution and this bond will help eliminate the use of many of them.

  9. The district uses the same tactics that they have always used. Get the local tv and newspaper folks on board pumping it. Concentrate on parents via notes home from school. Use an off-date for the election to minimize turnout. When I taught in Meridian (35 years ago) we used to schedule baked goods sales or music programs on election day to get more parents in the building on election day. Go for a big wish list to start and downgrade if it doesn’t pass.

  10. An increase in taxes is a hard sell to a retiree on a fixed income.

    For those too young to know, Social Security’s increase this year was less than 1%, at the same time Medicare premium increased the same amount- = same amount of check for 2017 as received in 2016.

  11. STOP THAT BOND! Federal funding has been cutoff-
    The school district has an $80+ million dollar lawsuit hanging over their heads, which is why they can’t get any federal funding until the suit is resolved. This bond should be removed from the ballot!

  12. Clancy Anderson
    Mar 3, 2017, 12:35 pm

    Sally, Please backup your claim about this lawsuit. And BSD still has received increased federal funding the past few years according to the most recent budget. Stating your alternative facts does nothing to further this conversation.

  13. Education is the investment in human capital that will shape the future. The investment proposed by this bond is to provide the facilities to effectively educate this and future generations. They provide the intellectual skills and human capital that will determine the future of Idaho or wherever they go to find employment and livable wages. It is difficult to see how rejecting this investment does anything but harm them and Idaho’s future.

    If I understand correctly, the bond can only be used to pay for maintaining, repairing or building facilities. It cannot pay the day to day costs of operations. Schools are already strapped to pay those operating costs, so that many had imposed activity fees to be paid by students who wanted to engage in some particular school activity. State education spending is just returning to the level that it was in 2009 and 2010, and that may be even before adjusting for inflation. It seems to be a safe assumption that there are more students in Idaho public education than there were in 2009 or 2010.

    It is easy to scoff at the people who are employed by the school district and who do the planning on these matters. It is easy to assume that they are just feathering their own nest. But to do so is to jump to the conclusion that they are not doing their best to make smart decisions to maximize the benefit of the investment. It demonstrates a belief that these public school leaders do not have the best interest of the students, the school district and Idaho at heart when they try to fulfill their duties. It suggest that only those who are cynical and suspicious but not involved in planning for the future of education in Idaho are qualified to determine what is or is not necessary. It should not be surprising that the people who do the planning and whose job it is to project and prepare for the future are the ones who also support and promote the bond. Who else would? Who else would know enough to do so? I do know that I do not want to take the time to do the work to be able to make those decisions. I work close enough to full time that I cannot and do not want to take on those duties, or that responsibility.

    The costs of the tax has different impacts on different people. Anyone, retiree or otherwise, living on a fixed income has a tough time with any cost that goes up. Ada County offers a Property Tax Reduction (Circuit Breaker) Program and a Property Tax Deferral Program to help those who can demonstrate an appropriate level of need. But it is counter-productive to not fund education fully and effectively to educate future generations. That just insures future economic hardship.

    For decades, the political winds have been to cut taxes and let the sure to follow economic boom pay for everything that we need. That has put us 20 Trillion Dollars in debt. It does not appear that the current political leadership has any interest in having us pay for the current operation of government now, or to pay back now what we have borrowed over the last many decades. That might be considered a potentially catastrophic lack of responsibility, if it were not so laughingly described as fiscal prudence. We are handing off to future generations what is predicted to be 30 trillion dollars of debtor in 10 years. The least we can do is pay out enough money to provide them the education so that maybe we will not entirely doom them.

    Not that I have strong feelings about it.

  14. Explain please
    Mar 3, 2017, 6:47 pm

    Sally, can you fill us in on this lawsuit with the federals?

  15. Cowpoke Twice Removed
    Mar 3, 2017, 7:20 pm

    SALLY: Have alien doppelgangers taken over for the leaders of the school district too?!?!

    You should probably avoid getting your news from the magazines in the grocery store checkout line.

  16. Wrong Priorities
    Mar 4, 2017, 12:27 am

    I hate Michael Moore but agree with his broken watch twice daily. We do in fact spend more than nearly every country per student and produce mid-ranked students. So please spare me all this bullcrap about investing in our future. We are producing too many expensive lemons. The great river of forced taxation keeps it afloat… approved by voters who think it’s all about spending. Radical and unclear change is needed in teaching strategies, but in a hot minute we could stop focusing on building grand palaces. Secondhand warehouses seem to perform just as well for budget conscious universities.

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/

    http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/020915/what-country-spends-most-education.asp

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/on-the-world-stage-us-students-fall-behind/2016/12/05/610e1e10-b740-11e6-a677-b608fbb3aaf6_story.html

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States

  17. Maybe the SD can tell us what the clock tower at Timberline cost the taxpayer. That should assuage any doubts about its ability to spend wisely, right?

  18. Hey Cowpoke,

    I’m impressed with your subject mastery of open enrollment. Open enrollment certainly can be a tool in the toolbox when used responsibly. Since you seem to have some expertise in open enrollment matters how about sharing with us some more information about it?

    Like District cost per student, state reimbursement per student, and where the difference between cost and state reimbursement comes from. Maybe District funds? You know, just some basics. With your mastery of the subject I sure giving us that information won’t take much of your time. Looking forward to your response.

  19. JJ,

    Here’s some answers to your questions – and then some.

    The current total Boise Schools levy rate is .004929113 per $ 100,000 of taxable value. You can verify that by looking at your property tax bill.

    Included in that rate is .0007 for bonds and .000195677 for the 2012 temporary operating levy.

    Per the recently published BSD legal notice, the total cost of the bond is $ 236 million. That would seem to indicate about $63 million in interest costs over the 20 year bond.

    The District has clearly stated supporting this bond will not “raise the current tax rate”. But what about future tax rates? And why is the current tax rate not going down in the future since both the 1996 bond levy rate is expiring (or has expired) and the 2012 temporary operating levy is expiring?

    Since both levy rates are expiring it would seem the overall the levy rate should be dropping. But it’s not. Why? Well, as Trustee Beth Oppenheimer said at a recent public forum, both those rates are being “extended” (her words). “Extended” also has appeared on social media sites such as Nextdoor.

    During the 2012 operating levy campaign the District said the levy would be “temporary” and expire at its end – July 1, 2017. Apparently that’s no longer true. It’s being hijacked by the District into a semi-permanent capital levy from a temporary operating levy. So much for District honesty (one of its core values) when it comes to “temporary” levies.

    If the 2017 bond should fail, there will be a tax decrease. I say this because after a 2006 bond public forum a high level District official publicly let slip that if that bond failed (which it didn’t) the result would be tax decrease. Which means another effort to sell a bond would be a tax increase and tax increases are always a hard sell.

    The tax levy rate should be dropping. It’s not. To me, that is a tax increase. The District is being dishonest with us.

    And for the record, I am not opposed to school bonds per se but in this case I think the District has failed to thoroughly do its homework in spite of their claims, and numerous committees, to the contrary. A ten year Plant Facility Levy (like West Ada District is proposing) would be a start. A ten year levy for a ten year plan.

  20. Cowpoke Twice Removed
    Mar 5, 2017, 5:38 pm

    Cute Kate, very cute. I don’t really need to since you didn’t provide a rebuttal, just a homework assignment. Suffice it to say that district cost per student is meaningless when you’re discussing adding a student to a classroom with room for them. District cost per student includes the expense of all district staff and facilities which doesn’t change when filling an empty slot in a class. In a case such as this the additional cost of an individual student is minimal compared to the state money that comes with that student. Now, if you have to add a class or build new schools you’re losing money but that’s not what the BSD is doing despite your allegations.

    Too bad you didn’t use your response to JJ as your opinion piece. It provides a far more reasoned argument.

  21. They are asking us to do what the Legislature won’t.

    In 2006 “Gov” Risch led a successful effort to raise the sale tax one cent to shift school support from property tax to sales and income tax.

    Shortly thereafter, the economy tanked and state funding of education followed. It has never recovered.

    Since then, 89 supplemental levies have been borne by property tax payers, primarily homeowners, while:

    -Legislature fails to allow impact fees on development for schools.
    -Exempts more businesses from paying property taxes
    -Diminishes income from reduced personal property taxes on business.
    -refuses to increase homeowners exemption.

    Schools may need more money, but effort should be directed at changing funding formula for schools.

    And “no tax increase” talk is dishonest. It is like me paying off the last payment on my car and the bank says, no you have to make payments for another 20 years.

    Like sheep we sleep walk to the polls and do what responsible citizens do and the Legislature won’t!

  22. Yossarian_22
    Mar 7, 2017, 5:54 pm

    Recently, a local teacher made the rounds to drop pro-bond literature and rang the doorbell to boost the bond. I politely told her that I would be abstaining because I don’t think our kids are receiving an effective education. Why should I subsidize kids that are not being taught how to think critically about thinks as simple as where money really comes from. They are taught to be corporate robots that consume and get into debt. They pay taxes in service to a crony collusion of government and banks. They get “drafted” via poverty and fight senseless and never ending wars. Why should I subsidize that? No one questions stupidity, they ratify it and call it “democracy” or “progress.” I’m glad I don’t have any kids to serve as fodder in this insane meat grinder of narcissistic dancing for status and declining incomes. I feel sorry for today’s kids. They are going to have it tough enough without being lied to in school from administrations that teach test regurgitation via Kommen Korp programs. I hope I got my point across.

  23. Wrong Priorities
    Mar 8, 2017, 12:45 am

    Well said Y. However, I never attempt to discuss simple common knowledge topics with a teacher. I’ve concluded many are too nuts to reason with. Teachers are the largest (or one of the largest) groups of employees in the USA. They are one of the few groups aside from the voting public with the power to force change. Yet they work for peanuts while passionately hounding people to vote for overpriced buildings and overpriced multilayered administrations of a cataclysmically broken system which they shovel coal into daily. As a whole, the teacher group is obsessed with wildly useless social engineering agendas designed to make 97.5% of kids feel shame and guilt for being normal. Not even teaching civics in some districts any longer to make way for their nutty ideas.

  24. Well Cowpoke, I have to say I never thought about looking at schools as a cash cow but I sure will now. I’ll have to start looking for the seats for rent sign on the schools. For years I thought schools were for education but I guess they’re supposed to be revenue generators. Who would have thought.

    So let’s look at those empty seat numbers. Last school year there were roughly 3,300 empty seats total district wide. That’s a lot of empty seats. The equivalent of 7 elementary schools being vacant if the schools were 100% filled. But that wouldn’t be good, so let’s go with about 2,800 seats with school capacity filled at about 88% and we can get that equivalent vacant elementary number down to about 6.

    Last school year the District filled, and got revenue for, about 1,100 seats – about 4% of total enrollment. That must have been a ton of cash coming into the District but it also leaves about 1,700 seats not producing revenue. Not good. Maybe the District can hire a marketing person to hawk all those empty seats.

    If the District had been able to fill all 3,300 empty seats it would translate to about 13% of enrollment coming from outside the District. Using the 2,800 seat number it would be about 11%. Either way that’s a lot of kids from outside the District. Why do we need a $ 236 million bond with all those empty seats?

    I say boot out the out of districts kids and close, consolidate and reboundary! Think how much money the District could save by doing that. It would reduce costs substantially. And we could still do open enrollment to fill the few remaining seats to keep those cash cow dollars coming in.

    Let’s do it for the kids – and the taxpayers!! That would be a plan I’d be more likely to consider supporting.

    But we know closing and consolidating is off the table. The Daily has reported several times that closing and consolidating would upset parents so the District won’t close and consolidate. We certainly can’t have upset parents – even if it would mean a more efficient school district for both taxpayers and kids overall.

    Boise Schools just flat refuses to admit its glory days are over. Like it or not, it is slowly becoming an urban (in a big city sense) school district with declining enrollment. Even the recent DeJong Richter report indicates flat to declining enrollment under their recommended enrollment projection scenario. Admitting all those kids from outside the District just hides the real, declining, enrollment numbers. Perfuming the pig so to speak.

    And no, Cowpoke, I did not allege what you are claiming I did. Never even came close to saying that.

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