Bonding proposal vs Sinking Fund consideration

January 18, 2019

Dear Board Members and Editor:

I must first begin wishing each of you the best in your decision making progress.  It is in the ultimate interest of students and taxpayers to make the right choice for the present and future.

I was invited to an information gathering late this fall regarding what direction the School District should make, considering the expiration of the 15 year bond at the end of this year.  It was a sketchy presentation and much detail was left out.  They used a process to gather opinion rather unconventional.  No other subsequent meetings were held that I was aware of.  I was dismayed to hear that some decisions were made previously by a subcommittee gathering input from Johnson Controls Inc. referred to as JCI.  No other community input was revealed.  It was also apparent that other avenues for facility improvements and maintenance had been discarded, most likely because the architectural planners are successful salesmen.

Do not be influenced by special interests.

As a former School Board Member, serving in the late 90’s it was a Board goal then to create financial stability, which happened.  Somehow that was abandoned in 2005 and progressed downhill to our present time.  I distinctly remember cautioning the Board and Superintendent at the time (2005) regarding future maintenance needs.  Costly curriculum decisions along the way and long term looting of critical capital improvements funding have left the district completely bare with a minimal fund balance.  To compound the situation the district has suffered longer term declining enrollment.  The lack of a financial plan long ago leaves our needs wanting today.  I caution the Board against the easiest choice, borrowing heavily into the future and hope for the best down the road.  Let me repeat, long term borrowing is clearly unwise and unnecessary.

From the perspective of how taxpayers were treated to poor financial decisions then (2005), in comparison to today, it is no different.  When I witnessed Superintendent Scovell promoting that a long term bond is better, it begs a lot of questions and sends alarm bells.  I must strongly disagree with such a position.  Long term indebtedness by government at any level reflects poor financial planning and wastes taxpayer resources, most importantly is a disservice to students.  Please keep in mind taxpayers must approve such matters, which is highly doubtful, given the points outlined.  I will repeat my caution from nearly 14 years ago that a capital improvement and maintenance plan is absolutely vital.

My suggestion:  Allow the bond to expire.  Use the time to make a gradual improvement and replacements plan in stages each year for a 5 or 10 year period. (This should have started 2 to 5 years ago)  Place a question before voters in 2020 for a 2 or 3 mill request of a sinking fund.  This allows the district to create a plan and make necessary upgrades and improvements without impacting the current strained general fund.  A sinking fund allows voters to restore a level of financial discipline as Administrations and School Boards change.  It has the added advantage of avoiding finance costs.

I supported the bond in 2004, being disappointed afterwards with its outcome, financially.  Most importantly, the inability to maintain the districts assets sufficiently due to a lack of financial planning for capital maintenance, this should be avoided.  Remember, maintenance is always a need, it never ends.

An example of poor capital improvements (financial) planning was clearly stated: the School had to borrow funds to finance a used replacement boiler.  School Board Members should ask, does that situation demonstrate a consideration for maintenance and capital improvements?

I cannot support the current approach of a long term bond; its need is not demonstrated.  A longer term replacements and improvements plan is desperately needed; a sinking fund will provide this.  A long term bond will compound future issues with budgetary impacts and the need for maintenance, many years to come; to view it otherwise is misguided.  To consider a bond instead of a longer term capital improvement and maintenance plan via a sinking fund is simply unwise.

Your consideration of my comments and suggestions is most appreciated.

Respectfully Submitted,
Dan Dysinger

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