A re-post from November 2006. The school board pushed though an expensive plan to dig up the grass football field and install a FieldTurf surface, after months of assuring everyone who spoke against this project that donations would cover all of the cost, they failed and had to take out a $175K loan. This incident was also notable because of the unique argument the board tried to push, they said the cell towers belonged to the board, therefore the money from rents on the towers belonged to the board, and they didn’t have to take public comments on the use of that money – it was their money to spend as they pleased.
The turf project was also a time-bomb, the board minimized the cost of the replacement of the turf after 10 years, but it was estimated to be a $250K project. Read on for this story, then see my postscript where I show what the board now estimates the replacement turf will cost in 2017 (hint, $250K was way low).
(From November 2006)
The Grandview school board has voted to take out the full $175K loan that they had previously approved for the construction of the FieldTurf project. Remember the claims by the board that no taxpayer money would be used? That the fund raising would find $175K, as they asked for with their inaccurate donation board? It now appears that the $50K in hand from donations will barely cover the cost overrun announced at the Nov. meeting.
It was bad enough when they decided to pre-approve the $175K loan before the fund raising project had even begun, thus insuring that the donations would be small. Who wants to help fund a project that has already been pre-paid? How do you tell people that they should help the Andersons fund the Anderson field?
The worst part of the affair is the duplicitous claim that “The loan will be paid with income from the cell towers, and this is not taxpayer money because the tower leases are not publicly owned”. The board members and the superintendent tried to come up with explanations for this theory, but they failed. The land that the towers occupy is owned by the public. The money from the leases has been going into the general fund, which is part of the publicly accounted and taxpayer owned school fund (and if anyone thinks that educational funds are not owned by the public, they have not been paying attention to DeRolph v. State since 1991).
If the board was honest, they would simply have said “Yes, we will be using taxpayer money for the FieldTurf, we judge this to be a good use of school funds.” Maybe the attempt made by board members Heydinger and Cameron to restore $80K worth of cuts to the activities at the school (in the Nov 22 TVN, no link to the TVN news website because it sucks) at the Nov. meeting is an admission that school funds were used on the FieldTurf? And that they now want to spread some non-existent extra money to other activities as a way to buy off criticism of the FieldTurf project?
Board president McLeod is quoted as saying “Any part of the $175K not used will help to pay off the loan, or be used as “seed money” for the replacement turf needed in 10 years”. I don’t expect our board members to have degrees in economics, but those two statements are so stupid I have to comment.
If you have loan money left over after a project, you have wasted money. It costs money to take out a loan, every dollar that is not used is costing interest that you didn’t need to pay. The correct way to do a project is to take out loans as they are needed.
You don’t take out a loan for “seed money” for a project 10 years in the future. The cash will be costing the district more money as it sits unused in the bank. Duh. The frightening thing with our school board is that they probably don’t have the economic intelligence to understand these simple concepts.
(End story from 2006)
I wonder if that money that McLeod was going to use as seed money for the replacement of the turf is still sitting in an account somewhere. The school will need every penny they can dig up – they now project the cost will be $365K, and be needed by 2017.
While reading through the school board meeting notes, I found that they were still paying off this loan for the turf as late as 2014. If you are wondering why the board has not set some money aside in preparation for the turf replacement, the answer is that they were still paying off the old loan.
Poor planning and deceptive actions
Why is this story about a failed plan by the board to raise money still of interest?
Suppose you had a friend who wanted to start a business, and showed you a business plan that assumed a lot of money would flow in to get the business off the ground. The friend then quit his job, and after the money didn’t show up, came to you with a sad story about how he was in big trouble and needed you to loan him a lot of money, fast. You would probably sit him down and explain that if his business plan was based on assumptions that were not true, he has let optimism overwhelm reality. He needs to get real.
A school board that assumes it will get a lot of donations and will be able to build a big new project, then charges ahead with the project before the donations are in the bank, is similar to the unfortunate friend with the failed business. What made this project even worse was that the board was so out of touch with reality that they couldn’t even acknowledge they had failed, and came up with a dumb story that the cell towers were free money.
When you have a school board that is insular, out of touch, actively tries to keep anyone from knowing what they are doing, and ignores all criticism – that is the kind of environment that produces boards that make big mistakes. It was true 10 years ago, and it is true today.