Copyright© Don E. Gordon -- Reprint permitted for nonprofit use when source is cited.
3even the most educated person would have difficulty understanding SCABSD decisions.The required Act 34 hearing is characterized by constantly changing dates, locations,speaking lists, and other disruptions intended to discourage participation.
The June 5thdistrict budget hearing including discussion of funding for the high schoolwas a sham. Upon completion of the comprehensive budget presentation by the
district’s business manager, the projection screen was raised into the ceiling, the
projector put away, and the manager dismissed from answering questions. Budgetquestions from the public, invariably complex, were limited to three minutes. The entirepublic hearing for a $100 million budget was concluded in a record setting one hour
only 30 minutes for questions. When a citizen asked a legitimate and critical questionabout the presentation
how can the board project the lowest five year average taxincrease in its history while adding $102 million debt
no screen, no projector, no slide,no answer.
Rather than have the district’s expert answer the question, board members
one after the other parroted we are confident, but presented no data.The school district explanation on April 9, 2006 that the $102 million dollar high schoolrenovation would cost 4 mills or for the average homeowner ($67,845 assessed value)$274 per year for 20 years was accurate and straightforward. Significantly lowering thatnumber in the May 24th
SCASD’s local newspaper advertisement and during
subsequent school board meetings to only $4.25 in 2007-08 and increasing to $141 per year after 2012 was, if not deceptive, certainly unnecessarily confusing. The boardassigned 1.5 mills to one budget category and 2.5 mills to another in an attempt to wash1.5 mills from cost. The total is still 4 mills. At $102 million, after funds are completelydispersed, the school will cost 4 mills and the total annual cost remains $274 for theaverage homeowner until the debt is paid. The State Department of Education (PDE)may reimburse the district about $8 million, reducing the cost 8 percent, according tothe board from $274 to $242, but that will not be known until after the construction planis approved by the PDE and well after the Act 34 Hearing.
(At $8 million the tax isactually reduced to $252 not $242.)
It is irresponsible to tell taxpayers that the PDE willreimburse $8,000,000 when previous and recent
reimbursement estimates for other SCASD schools (Easterly, Gray's Woods, and Park Forest) have been 150 percent wrong.
The board cavalierly explains it is only $141 or $274. “That’s not much.” Look at it this way:
$274 is 1.5 weeks net pay for many $8.00 an hour wage scale retail workers struggling tofind a 30 hour work week. Many struggling single parents, hard working families with
multiple jobs, and retirees on fixed income live in those “average” houses. For the family
earning an average annual wage of about $43,000 and living in a home assessed at$144
,000, 4 mills is a $576 tax increase or one week’s net pay.
And that’s just the property
tax to renovate the high school. Both families also pay a 1 percent school earned
income tax. Does anyone on the board understand the term, “many are struggling?”
The school board raised taxes 5.6 percent in 2005, well beyond need, in order tocircumvent reasonable budget constraints anticipated from referendum provisionsincluded in pending state tax reform laws like Act 72. That was made clear during recentbudget hearings.
Then the board had the audacity to tell the public that the tax