Saturday, May 23, 2015

I Don't Get Why Rapid City Conservatives Are Fighting The Opt-Out. Passage Of It Could Be The Chance They've Been Waiting For.

     Seems like the noblest conservative ideal is local control of as many aspects of our public lives as possible, a notion that has held America's conservative community together since the inception of the country.  The conviction that centralized authority is the way to run our lives has long been held as one of the ideological bastions of Bolshevism among our freedom-loving patriots on the right for as long as I can remember.  That's particularly true when it comes to education.  These days they rail against Common Core, PC elements in school curricula . . . even the school lunches that our kids have to eat. 
     I get their drift and even go along with some elements of it.  And that's why I wonder why they're beefing so loudly about the Rapid City school district's proposed opt-out that comes to a vote on June 2.  What the schools are trying to do is rid themselves of the property tax limit that forces them to rely on state funds that just don't support the system they way they have in years past. "Opting out" of the tax limitation will let the district raise more money from local property taxes, in this case about $72 per $100,000  of valuation.  That will raise the $6 million a year that Rapid City schools say they need to maintain their services to our kids at something close to present levels.  
     Opponents don't see it that way.  Their organizers, with ties to the Tea Party-esque group Citizens For Liberty, gathered enough signatures to put the idea to a vote, which will take place
Some Say Yes
Count Me In
(photo from revivingrapidcityschools.weebly.com)
during Rapid City's municipal election on June 2.  The group believes that Rapid City's schools have a problem with mismanagement, not funding, but don't offer much in the way of specifics as to what aspects of the school district's budgets can be pared in order to offer a decent quality of public education. Generalizations on these matters come easily, but I have yet to see a line-item breakdown provided as a back-up by those who claim mismanagement.  

     That notwithstanding, opponents of this opt-out are missing the opportunity presented by it.  That's the part that goes along with the general conservative ideal of greater local control of education.  My view is that the more local money spent on education, the more local awareness  is likely to surface. Only about 40% of  the school district's funding comes from local property taxes, so it's easy for taxpayers to be indifferent about the situation.  By increasing the local taxpayers' share of school funding, there's a great deal more incentive for locals to pay attention to what's going on in our schools.  I think that's likely to happen and I think conservatives should be happy about it.  With a bigger chunk of their money on the line, those who dismiss the school district's plea for more money as a cover for bad management might actually have the incentive to look into school budgeting and come up with some specific changes and reductions that will comply with their insistence on "smarter
Some Say No
Include Me Out
(photo from www.blackhillsfox.com)
solutions."  

     As those "solutions" haven't been forthcoming up to now,  a successful "yes" vote might just be the catalyst needed for them to materialize down the road.  Actually, now that I think about it, I look forward to some intense budgetary analysis by the Citizens For Liberty in coming months, opt-out or no opt-out.  

4 comments:

  1. Specifics;

    How about the hiring of nearly 50 full time positions over the last 2 years with no increase in revenue? one of which was an administrative position.

    How about being "broke" in the capital outlay fund despite averaging nearly 9% increase per year over the last 15? years. This fund went from 9 - 23 million in just 11 years(?) (130% increase). Sioux Falls CO fund went from 12-21 million (60% increase) during this same time. Despite having about 9 thousand fewer students the taxpayers of Rapid city are paying more into this fund than Sioux Falls - I think that is outrageous.

    The teachers salary matrix is a mess. The matrix is unfundable given the top salary allowed by the school board. The "base" salaries cannot be increased because the district has gone broke funding the numerous top end salaries.

    Why would you give a school board more money - that has wasted millions in hiring personnel with one time money - squandered millions from our capital outlay fund - and let the pay matrix get so far out of hand they cant fund it ?

    p.s. Had the school board not squandered every cent from the capital outlay fund, they could have reduced the mill levy by 5-6 million in that fund. Had equal to or more than Sioux Falls increase in that fund. Then the opt-out could have been tax neutral, or almost.

    Rick Kriebel

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    1. What were the projects that the CO fund was "squandered" on, Mr. Kriebel?

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  2. It is not necessary to name specific projects, although I certainly could question the size and scope of the several "remodeling" jobs (20 million a pop ?) on a few schools. I understand that everyone has a different scale when it comes to identifying necessities versus niceties.

    Capital outlay;
    Squandering is when government spending and taxing increases faster than the income of the taxpayers. I doubt I have to prove that our income (as a community) has lagged far behind the nearly 9% annual increase in the capital outlay fund. Therefore I claim with a clear conscience that the school board has squandered away MILLIONS. For example; if our 9 million had grown at the same rate as Sioux Falls rate of 60 percent - we would have realized an increase of 5.4 million, instead of the 14 million we actually paid. Our local taxes increased about 8 million more than the same increase Sioux Falls paid. That is nearly a civic center payment in excess taxes. Maybe the city should let the RC School district build the civic center.

    General fund:
    The 60 - 70 positions that the supporters claim will have to be eliminated "every year" equals 6% - 7% of the total number of teachers. When you combine that percentage with the average state aid of 2.5%. The supporters are claiming, in effect, that the district has to have an 8% - 10% increase in revenue every year "just to maintain where we are" in the general fund as well.

    In my opinion, any governing body (school, city, county, etc) that claims it needs 8-10 percent increase every year - or 4-5 times the increases of our income - is unsustainable and indefensible.

    I hope my use of the word squandered did not offend you, but it certainly seems fitting to me.

    Rick Kriebel

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    Replies
    1. I beg to differ, Mr. Kreibel. I would like to see the specific projects on which you claim that the district's/taxpayer's money was "squandered." Back it up, please.

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