Letter to the Editor:
Measure E (Biggs Unified School Bond) must be defeated again! Short-term wishful-thinking, long-term financing and mismanagement just don’t mix.
September 11, 2008. Today I received in the mail a Measure E “Fact Flyer” from Superintendent, Bill Cornelius of the Biggs Unified School District. The flyer was professionally done and depicts children learning in the classroom. It is obvious that the School District wants to appeal to the hearts of voters, but the School District is in fact misleading the voter.
While I suspect that the schools need repairs and renovations, taxpayers need to ask themselves many questions. Can we trust Biggs Unified with managing our money?
What has Biggs Unified done to increase school revenues, or in this case increase the ADA (average daily attendance)? Should we be dumping money into old buildings or investing in modern, brand new “green” state-of-the-art buildings? Should we be looking years out into the future and entertain the idea that maybe a possible merger with Gridley Schools is a good idea: for the community, the taxpayer, and ultimately each student that is run through the “system?” Why hasn’t Biggs Unified maintained their buildings responsibly? Where are the reserve accounts that set aside monies for typical foreseen (not unforeseen) capital improvements (roofs, HVAC systems, etc)? Is this new 25-year property tax scheme the best and only alternative, NO IT IS NOT? Where are these answers? They are certainly not in the misleading Flyer.
The recent Oak Hills Academy fiasco as reported in the online edition of the Gridley Herald (Sept 5, 2008) seriously questions the overall management of the school district to include wasteful spending, misuse of public funds, and significant deficiencies in internal controls over payroll and vendor payments. And, now this is the same management that wants local hardworking taxpayers to “throw” 6.9 million local dollars and approximately another 4 million dollars of State matching funds into purgatory. What assurance do voters have that the State will provide this exact funding? The State does not have a budget and they are BILLIONS (with a “B”) in the red. The people need to say “NO!” Enough is enough! This is a slap-in-the-face to voters! Why is Biggs Unified intentionally misleading voters?
What has Biggs Unified done to increase school revenues? There is no mention in the Fact Flyer. The flyer does state that student enrollment in the district is approximately 650 students. Where are the ADA trends for the past 10 years (per school and class grade) and the projections for the next 10 years? What is Biggs Unified doing to recruit more students? Do we have enough classrooms to handle future demand, or do we have too many?
I support investing in new state-of-the-art “green” school buildings. I do not support throwing money at old buildings to make them appear “state-of-the-art.” New buildings are cheaper to construct, cheaper to operate, and cheaper to maintain. I also subscribe to the real estate appraisal concept of “highest and best use.” Should we be building/rebuilding schools in the same spot or should we move them to another location to maximize land use and land values? I seriously doubt that any feasibility studies with regards to “highest and best use” were ever conducted. Additionally, I support higher wages for our teachers, and for the most part understand their frustrations, but this is another topic.
It is also time that citizens of Biggs and Gridley start thinking of a Gridley-Biggs School District merger. We already have a Gridley-Biggs Police Department, Fire Department, and Hospital that coincidently is also fighting for its financial life despite special assessments that property owners are paying. Current economic times are tough everywhere! And, they are tougher in economically challenged Biggs, and for that matter, Gridley! In the “real world,” private businesses/companies that face challenging times go broke, sell, or merge to reduce market competition and cut costs, specifically layers of unnecessary high-priced management, and to rid itself of dead real estate assets that drag profits. Biggs Unified’s senseless choice is raise taxes and not look at alternatives. While I realize that a Gridley-Biggs merger may not be a popular choice due to inflated egos, breaking with tradition, and shameless mindsets that “its government money anyway,” one can only hope of having a more efficient/lean merged school district with new state-of-the-art facilities that in the end attracts outsiders (teachers & families) to our community (Gridley-Biggs) because our schools rival the best in the nation. And, that my friends should be the goal!
Throwing more money at old buildings is not a long-term solution, but a short term solution at best. Short term solutions are best handled by community efforts in the form of fundraisers, donations, and sweat labor. Short term solutions are not meant to be financed for 25 years! It is unfortunate that Biggs Unified’s only solution is to raise property taxes. Biggs Unified should have been proactive all along in its efforts to maintain their buildings at acceptable levels, not reactive and wait until the roofs start leaking, or caving in to take action; déjà vu Oak Hills Academy.
Again, the overall management of the school is a serious cause for concern! We need long-term solutions with long-term financing. Biggs Unified’s short term thinking is to legally pick-pocket the property taxpayer every year for the next 25-years and that is totally irresponsible, reckless, and a double slap-in-the-face. I would bet that Bill Cornelius does not even live in the school district he is serving. What’s to prevent Biggs Unified from coming back to the well year after year for more money just because they cannot manage money effectively and efficiently as evidenced by the Oak Hills Academy debacle?
Biggs Unified, please give us reasons to invest in your future, besides the current negative press circulating in newspapers, television, coffee shops, and the Butte County District Attorney’s office.
Vote NO on Measure E