Prop. R is not sound fiscal management

By Paul Ketchum

I have been reading the articles in the Sentinel about Proposition R and decided to research it. I have read the ballot, the school board’s resolution, and downloaded and read (several times) the San Diego County Taxpayers Association position paper on Prop. R.

I would urge all my fellow citizens to read the SDCTA position paper.

The $66 million bond will cost the taxpayers $121 million to $126 million over its 25-year span.

While much is promoted about the SDCTA supporting Prop. R, I can find nothing within the SDCTA document to suggest that they think the proposed spending is either prudent or needed. Rather it seems to be an analysis of the information the district provided SDCTA to assess whether it met their criteria for transparency in bond initiatives for taxpayers’ consideration, what SDCTA refers to as School Bond Support Criteria. The information met 9 of 12 of SDCTA criteria.

The three criteria that were not met are:

• Program Execution Plan,

• Deferred Maintenance and Major Repair and Replacement Plan, and

• Complete Ballot and Resolution Language.

A good deal of this money is being used to repair facilities ($2.9 million) and buy technology upgrades ($7.484 million). Both of these items are short-term problems which the district would have us pay for 25 years. The issue of facilities in need of repair rests squarely on the shoulders of district management. Part of management is to properly use its resources to include adequate facility maintenance. A good portion of the nearly $7.5M in technology they want us to pay for will undoubtedly be obsolete in a matter of just several years. Both these items should be part of any organization’s annual operating and IT capital expenditure plans. I wonder how many of my fellow citizens would take out a 25-year loan to buy a computer or re-roof their home?

With regard to the facility repairs I will quote from the SDCTA document:

“….it is unclear if the District will be able to maintain facilities following completion of the bond program,….”

“…the District eliminated funding for deferred maintenance in FY2009 and plans to do the same through FY2014.”

“Of the $5.9 million in their deferred maintenance backlog, the District estimates that $2.9 million in projects will be addressed by the proposed bond. The remaining $3 million will need to be addressed in the future. The balance of the backlog is anticipated to be completed at a later date with either a later bond issuance or the reinstatement of the State’s deferred maintenance program.”

Another large component of Prop. R is to refinance debt incurred to build schools.

“There is approximately $22.7 million in outstanding COP debt.” Refinancing this debt eliminates approximately $1.4 million per year in payments. The District has said none of the bond money would go to salaries. Where is this $1.4 million per year the District will not be paying for COP debt going to go? My guess is a good portion would go toward salaries.

As a taxpayer being asked to pay hundreds of dollars a year for the next 25 years, I have a few things I would like to ask the Superintendent and President of the School Board. I have been reading for some time that the District is nearly broke, and at risk of being put into receivership by the state if the financial situation does not improve. I also read the District brought on board a consulting firm to advise and help prepare Prop. R. How did you pay these consultants and how much? Did you cut a contingency deal with them where they get paid if Prop. R passes and if so, how much?

I urge my fellow citizens to carefully read the SDCTA’s Prop. R position paper, as well as the ballot wording before you vote.

As for me, I vote no to more taxes. I don’t believe this is about 21st Century Education, rather it seems to be about a lack of 21st Century Management. It’s time to hold the school board and district management accountable for sound fiscal and resource management practices.

In my opinion, Prop. R is not sound fiscal management.

Paul Ketchem is a Ramona resident.

   
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