Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Truth in Education (Construction) Costs

It appears that the School District has opted not to release ALL of the teacher's aides, finding money to keep perhaps two thirds of them. It was nice to read on the School website that several of these proposed suggestions were adopted.

Earlier, funding had been "found" to build the third high school gym, and finish adding bricks and mortar. An analysis of recent school budget leads to the conclusion this should have come as no surprise. In the last five years, 2005 - 2009 Wasatch school district has had a 10% increase in enrollment BUT a 65% increase in revenues/expenditures. Click here for a Summary Report (http://sn.im/wasbud) and here for the Source. Total revenue to the district in 2009 - about $47 Million or $9,760 per student. 2005: $28 million for 4,303 students (you can divide for per student)

Several questions were asked of school representatives in a recent radio interview, click here and here to listen (two parts). In particular, one question was asked about the source of the funds for the third gym et al (sports/frills - as opposed to teachers/education). While an answer was not given in the interview, subsequently it was reported that the interest "earned" from placing construction bond funds in the bank had to be spent on construction rather than operations according to state law.

According to a phone call with the Utah State of Education, finance department that was close but not totally correct, BUT it is a Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (the website name sounds somewhat like 'gasbag'). Rather than a law, it seems to be customary practice in Utah to build 'more' school for the bond money than the advertised funds requested. This practice, of course, merely increases the costs by forcing the interest to be PAID to the end of the bond payments. It may seem strange to some, but banks generally do not provide money through a loan without paying interest from the day of receipt of funds. This procedure is reminiscent of the buy now, pay later philosophy that was so prevalent in leading up to our current national economic crisis. . . (and regrettably continues)

This little procedural interpretation allows bonds to be proposed to the taxpayers for a certain amount with the full knowledge that the costs will be substantially higher - Does this like a bit of subterfuge, bait and switch, or just a little distortion of the truth for sales purposes?

So the answer to the source of the funds appears to be simply that the money was already there, the Board was just required to give the approval for its expenditure. A second source for the money may have been the excess taxation that was received through increased assessments prior to the correction of the tax rates. In either case the Truth in taxation hearings were vastly deficient.

Several other questions remain unanswered, but the overriding answer to most seems to be "we have the money and we will spend it, building bigger and 'better' to satisfy our edifice complex" and the taxpayers are available later for increase to cover operation costs with a truth in taxation hearing.

Oh, on the subject of the NEED for a third gym. Consider this: with only TWO gyms, (at least 4 teaching stations) 1 Wrestling room, Batting room, Cheer/Dance room, Racketball (sic) Court, Student Weight room, 2 sports (?) classroom - for a total of at least 11 sport 'teaching' stations - at merely 6 periods periods per day and 20 students per class; there would apparently be enough space to have 1320 students in some sort of physical education class every single school day. Wasatch High will have the most physically fit graduates in the state!

But, planned enrollment is only 1200, AND PE is only required for 3 semesters (not eight) during four years of high school and probably does not meet daily. It certainly appears that TWO gyms would have been MORE than sufficient.

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