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Richard Rider

Scores of CA school bonds this November — to pay for educational materials, not capital costs

Heads up!  This November there will be scores of new local school bonds on the ballot in California, each raising property taxes.  We have seven such bonds in just San Diego County alone.  But this year most of the school bonds will be different – and not in a good way.

Anyone remember how Prop 30 was going to provide the needed funding for education?  Apparently it’s not enough. It’s NEVER enough.

Sadly, I predict that most such California bonds will not even have an opposition argument in the ballot books.  I’m doing what I can to get some arguments submitted in my county – fortunately our county GOP stands firmly with the taxpayers in this matter.

NOTE:  Submitting an opposition argument will force proponents (mostly the unions) to spend considerably more money to get their bonds passed – itself a good thing.  And you can win – it’s NOT a hopeless quest to stand tall against such tax increases.  Witness our June effort against the Coronado school bonds for operating budget money – the prop was crushed with a resounding 58% “NO!” vote.
http://riderrants.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-little-noticed-crushing-rejection.html

Generally speaking, such arguments are due THIS WEEK.  IF anyone wants a GENERIC argument to submit, I may be able to provide one.  Remember, you get what you pay for (mine’s free).  No warranty included!

KEY POINT:  These bonds are NOT “for the children.”  It’s more money for the district employees.  Let me explain.

In the “old days” (up through the 1990’s), school bonds were mostly for CAPITAL improvements – primarily new schools to handle the growing student population.  But since the turn of the century, most school districts have had little if any increase in enrollment.  Many districts have seen a DROP in attendance.  More school buildings are seldom needed – indeed, some should be SOLD!

So the school bond hustling firms in the state – the ones that the districts pay big fees (with taxpayer dollars) to in exchange for helping get bonds passed – needed a new approach. And a clever approach it is – often almost cookie cutter copies of the template.

In essence, these bond purveyors (the enemies of taxpayers) packaged the revised pitch so they could continue making big bucks selling bonds.  The new pitch (carefully concealed) is to shift parts of the district’s OPERATIONAL budget to school bonds – the day-to-day expenses that previously school districts paid out of their regular (general) funds.  In essence, this ruse is a way to raise taxes for the district budget with only a 55% majority vote.  The interest cost of the bonds paid by hapless taxpayers is a nonfactor for these robber barons.

The proposed school bonds are for “upgrades,” but much of this is for the neglected repairs that were SUPPOSED to be paid out of the district’s general fund – repairs that are frequently deferred so more money can be given to the district’s employees.

But even more nefarious is that today’s proposed school bonds are now being used to buy educational materials – a clear-cut operational budget cost.  Frequently short term and even long term bonds are being issued to buy electronic gear – notably notebooks and I-Pads for most of the students.  These devices will soon take the place of many printed textbooks – future such “books” will be software, or online.

I must add that I think this electronic innovation is a terrific idea.  I just think it’s madness to fund this cost with school bonds and the commensurate increase in taxes.  Such educational materials are a core item in the district’s general fund obligation – it’s not an expense to be fobbed off on property owners.

So, how do these bonds increase school district union members’ pay and benefits?  It’s pretty simple.  Money is fungible – dollars not spent on one item can now be freed up to spend on something else.

While the school bond proceeds cannot be directly spent on personnel costs, this influx of money frees up existing general fund money now being spent on instructional materials and repairs – money that the rapacious union bosses will promptly claim as “extra” money that should be paid to the employees.  And paid it is.

This additional cash infusion relieves the school board members from having to make hard choices.   Most modern day board members are elected by the education labor unions, so their first allegiance is to the union bosses. It’s easier for everyone if “mo’ money” is found so that the gravy train can continue.

Moreover, student electronic devices should result in significantly lower school book costs – printing (and the printing of updated versions) is a huge portion of conventional textbook prices.  That extra savings will NOT go towards paying off the bonds – it will increase cash in the districts’ operational funds – and we know where most of that “extra money” is going to go.

School board members, school district employees, union bosses, mercenary school bond purveyors — everybody wins!  Well, almost everybody.