This is not just about the taxes. It is about what the school district wants to do with the money and how the school board has rubber stamped their approval on it. Or did they? The Cost Estimates for the Bond Issue items were not included in the monthly board meeting packet information that is sent to school board members each month or at least not the copy of the board meeting packets that I have been provided by the board secretary which should be the same. They are supposed to be the same as the copy that is kept on file at the Central Office for the public to review anytime during regular office hours according to board policies.
Please review some of the reasons that I feel warrant a NO VOTE on the August 7, 2012 Fox C-6 Bond Issue Vote.
SOME REASONS TO VOTE NO ON THE AUGUST 7, 2012 FOX C-6 BOND ISSUE:
- The school district never published the Bond Issue Budget until I requested a copy via email and asked the district to publish it on the district website.
- The Bond Issue Budget was never published in the Board of Education (BOE) monthly meeting information packets for the board members to review and approve. The only item regarding the Bond Issue in the BOE information packets was the Bond Issue Ballot which was approved at the May 2012 BOE meeting. Why was the Bond Issue Budget not provided to the board members in their monthly information packet? Or, was the packet I received different from the copy that the BOE was sent? It should be the same. The date the PDF file was generated was 04/12/2012.
- The Bond Issue Budget LISTS LESS THAN $16 Million Dollars of Upgrades, Repairs and Purchases. What will the other $2.5 Million Dollars not earmarked be used for?
- The coaches want Artificial Turf on the two high school football fields at the cost of $1.5 Million Dollars for both high school football fields. Industry estimates that Artificial Turf has a typical life span of 10 to 12 years. Washington University was recently featured in a June 2012 STLTODAY.COM article where the university recently replaced their artificial turf after only 8 years. You the taxpayer are being asked to extend the current Bond for another 10 years. The bond will not be retired until 2032 and the school district will have to replace the artificial turf again half way into the bond. Maybe the extra $2.5 Million dollars of buffer in the bond issue can be used to defray the replacement cost.
- Did the school board ask what the cost of maintenance was for an Artificial Turf Field verses the Natural Grass Field? There were no budget documents in the Board of Education (BOE) packets for the Bond Issue Budget or for Cost Comparisons. I suggest that you ask your board members if they performed any cost analysis. I have asked but have not received a response.
- The BOE has been asked repeatedly to publish the monthly board information packets on the district website so the community and district patrons and parents can be more informed about what is happening in the district as well as issues being considered. This would also allow others to review the expenditures and decisions being made by the school board. However, to date the District has refused to publish this information. When I gave Wentzville school district as an example of one of many school districts that publishes this information on their websites PRIOR to BOE meetings as it is public record, I was told by our superintendent that our district does not have a full time person maintaining our website like they do in other districts and that we put our money into the classroom. However, her statement regarding our district not having a Full Time person to maintain the district website appears to be FALSE. The 2011-2012 school year Classified Central Office Staff listed in the August 30, 2011 BOE information packets lists a Full Time Web Designer making $44,731 who has been working for the district for 7 years. It is responses like that from school leaders that causes concerns about the honesty and integrity of our school leadership? The staff roster included the Full Time Web Designer, four system support specialists, a PC Tech as well as a Systems Support Supervisor that makes $66,434. So, it does appear that we have several IT staff working for our district now as well.
- The BOE and the superintendent do not want you to be informed citizens and will either ignore your questions or have our superintendent respond which may be riddled with misleading or false information in an attempt to keep you from obtaining the information you are seeking. For example, at the March 2012 BOE meeting, our superintendent stated that our school district's Board Policies, Regulations and Forms had been completely overhauled and would be posted on the district website for both staff and the public to review and make recommendations to before the school board adopts the new documents. One week after the BOE meeting, I emailed the current board president and the board secretary asking where I could download the Policies, Regulations and Forms from the website. I received a response from our superintendent informing me that, "Drafts of Board meeting minutes are not for public view (policy 0405). Only board minutes that have been approved by the board are made public, which you can obtain on the website. You can view the March 20 meeting minutes upon approval of the April board meeting. It usually takes a week or two, so please be patient." I also made a request for a Draft copy of the March 20, 2012 school board meeting minutes to see what was documented regarding the posting of the board policies and regulations. I responded to our superintendent with her exact words from my audio recording of the BOE meeting in which she stated, "We are finally ready for the forms and manuals and policies to be reviewed. This would be an overhaul of all of the school district policies. They will be placed, I believe tomorrow night, Debby, on the website? And, sent out to staff or we will have a place that staff can log into. We’re not sure if we can send that big of documents for download. And we’re going to leave them up until June so that staff can make recommendations and the public can make recommendations. Then we’ll bring those recommendations back and my guess is....” My email response to the superintendent that included her quote from the BOE meeting was followed by another email from our superintendent informing me that, "Hello Rich! Debby will gather all of this information and shoot it to you electronically today. Please let us know if it all doesn't transmit." I received a draft copy of the updated board policies and regulations, a "draft" copy of the March 20, 2012 BOE meeting minutes as well as copies of the BOE meeting information packets dating back to April 2010. My request for the BOE meeting information packets was finally being fulfilled FREE of charge because the school district purchased tablet computers for all of the administrators and board members to use during BOE meetings to read and review the information packets starting at the December 2011 meeting. This meant that our district documents were definitely available in electronic form. My previous requests have always resulted in the district informing me that there would be a $0.10 per page fee for the documents I requested. Missouri Sunshine Law requires that electronic documents be made available to the public for free if they exist in electronic format and the state of Missouri encourages government entities to keep documents in electronic format.
- BUS MAINTENANCE EXPENSES - This is an issue that perplexes me after reviewing the check registers contained in the board packets. Each month, the district pays somewhere between $40,000 and $57,000 for what is documented as bus maintenance and supplies. On average it works out to about $50,000 per month for bus maintenance and supplies. This figure seems high and many people that I have spoken with have also considered that to be a pretty expensive maintenance cost. The cost of a new 71 passenger bus was recently quoted for around $73,000 and a 26 passenger bus at around $43,000 to the district. Our district has around 100 school buses and from board meeting minutes our school buses log around 1.2 to 1.3 million miles per year which would work out to around 12,000 to 13,000 miles per year on each bus. I'm still doing more research on this expense as it just seems a bit out of the ordinary. At first I thought that this monthly expense might include fuel, but then I found line items in our check register for fuel costs which typically has entries for $24,000 and $10,000 per month from two different suppliers.
I am encouraging you to VOTE NO on the upcoming Bond Issue on August 7, 2012. The proposed $18.5 Million dollar Bond Issue might have been something to consider had it ONLY been slated for upkeep and repairs of buildings and technology and DID NOT include $1.5 Million Dollars in artificial turf and another $1 Million Dollars in track replacement costs. The Middle Schools could use bleachers for their outside fields. However, with the highest amount of estimated expenses going towards improvements of the football fields and replacement of the tracks that are not that old and are much better than the straight blacktop that I ran on, I am suggesting that you VOTE NO ON THE BOND ISSUE.
Please visit the school district website at:www.fox.k12.mo.us and look for the Bond Issue Budget on the on the right hand side of the home page listed under (Bond Issue Capital Projects (with Estimated Costs)). I would post a link to the PDF document, but our district still insists on using SessionID values which are unique to your web browser session to generate links to documents posted on the district website, therefore you cannot email a direct link to a document to another person or even open the same link in a different flavor browser on your same computer. I have asked to have this changed as well. Generating links dynamically documents keeps the documents from being found by search engines as well as making it impossible to directly share information with others.
Email Your School Board Members
Please contact your board members to see what they have to say about things. You won't be able to find their individual email addresses on the district website. I have requested several times that board members have individual email addresses or phone numbers listed on the website as they do in other school districts and have been told that they are not on the district website.
I have a feeling that our superintendent does not want the public speaking with our school board members outside of the 3 minutes of Public Comment time at the beginning of BOE meetings. You can always try sending an email to the generic firstname.lastname@example.org, but it goes directly to the board secretary and not the school board. The board secretary is also the superintendent's secretary, so you can probably guess where your email will end up going even if it is a school board matter.