Entries Tagged 'SF School District' ↓

Michael Wyland slams School District on Survey(?)

I couldn’t agree more with Michael about this;

Significantly, for a poll at the beginning of a broad-based community-wide engagement strategy, there was no option for respondents to indicate they were undecided or not sure whether they would support the initiatives being proposed. Most questions required a response, so there was almost no option to leave a particular question unanswered.

The closed and bureaucratic approach to garnering support for initiatives promoted as benefitting the community as a whole may have the opposite of the intended effect. There are reports that an independent group may be formed to support the bond issue. Perhaps they’ll do a better job of engaging the community.

The problem is they don’t want to ‘engage’ the public. They want a small group of supporters to vote this in on a special election in September. Let’s just say some of my foot soldiers and I have been keeping detailed notes, and if they move forward with the current plan, they may have some surprises awaiting them.

Just who did the School District send postcards to?

I watched the school board meeting tonight, they said they mailed out a postcard to Sioux Falls school district residents;

These surveys were mailed out last week to everyone in the Sioux Falls School District.

Weird? Right? I am a registered voter in the District that rarely has missed a School District election in the past 5 years. Where was my postcard? Would love to see who this was mailed to? I didn’t get one, yet I get a Community Education catalog.

That aside, you can take the survey HERE. You will recognize as I did, it’s more of a push poll than a real survey.

This part of the Envision Task Force report is a little murky about this to;

For example, for a home costing $185,000, the owners would pay 2 dollars more a month for the next 25 years.

But how much of that is compounded each year? Nobody has addressed this yet.

They also want to do a stand alone election in September because they must certify their 2019 budget by September 30th according to state law. Will they use ALL of the precincts or pick and choose super precincts?

UPDATE: Sioux Falls School Board has questionable Executive Session

The school board met at 2 PM today (video above) to discuss the Envision Task Force Draft report. The meeting was posted as a 2 PM start meeting, but when people arrived they noticed the agenda changed to a 1:45 PM Executive Session before the meeting started.

First off, most of the time Executive Sessions are at the end of meetings not at the beginning. Secondly they have to state SDCL that it is an executive session, that is 1-25-2(2);

Executive or closed meetings–Purposes–Authorization–Violation as misdemeanor.

As you can see, besides stating SDCL numbers they must tell the public on the agenda the ‘purpose’ of the session. While they don’t have to state what/who will be discussed, that is the whole purpose of an executive session, they must say the topic or purpose. For example, pending litigation, student issue or personnel issue. They did not state the topic and took no action in open. This could be a possible open meetings violation.

Once the 2 PM meeting started they went straight into the draft report. Some interesting things occurred.

At 32:30 a member of the public, Michael Wyland asked where the document was that outlines the 30 member TF’s individual priorities and how the ranking was done. No one produced the document.

Other things that were stated was 70% of the people who will vote on the bond issue DO NOT have children in the school district.

TF Chair Vernon Brown bragged about the how nice it was only a $2 a month tax increase. This hasn’t been fully explained yet either how that will compound over the 10-25 year loan span except that there may be a lower capital outlay levee promised to offset that tax increase. No idea what that will be either except that they will model it after the 1997 school bond.

Super Maher stated that while staff can share FACTS about the bond issue they cannot encourage people to vote for or against the bond. This is questionable because they haven’t been sharing all of the FACTS so far, so I have a feeling the FACTS they do share will be cherry picked.

He also went on to say there is a private community group interested in promoting the passage of the bonds but wouldn’t say who it was. My guess it is probably involved with the Chamber, but not sure.

Finally, Maher said that while the $190 million will be for the construction of 3 schools, $40 million of that is for ‘TLC’ of existing schools.

UPDATE: I guess the School District’s Financial Director, Todd Vik mentioned that they would try to use super precincts in the proposed September 18th election. I missed that, but a reader pointed it out to me. I’m still researching whether they can do that in reference to Federal Law and disenfranchising voters.

I’m getting very nervous about how they are going to sell this to the community. Like I said, I support public education, we need new schools, I get it. Where I get troubled about the proposal is the details of what the money will be spent on and the lack of documents from the TF supporting why we need to do this.

This proposal will be doomed if they don’t start sharing ALL of the information with the public. Government works best when it is open and transparent, this proposal is already on shaky ground.

School Task Force presents proposal today at 2 PM

The DRAFT proposal will be presented to the School Board TODAY at 2 PM, IPC center, with a work session at 3 PM.

They will vote on the final proposal on June 11 at the regular meeting at 5:30. I highly suggest the public shows up and starts asking hard questions about this bond. I think we should support funding public education, but we should also be fiscally responsible and transparent about it. The plan I have seen so far doesn’t even come close.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls School Bond Task Force threw transparency out the window

Now that the meetings are done, it’s time to look back on what was achieved and the multiple missteps the TF (Task Force) made when it came to transparency.

No matter whether you believe we should bond $190 million for new schools is really secondary to the process. It was NOT open, and I feel there is no intentions to keep it transparent moving forward.

I have mulled over several of the TF documents. Many important details are missing from the documents (that were available at some of the meetings). I did not attend the TF meetings but did watch 2-4 online. I have also been told by an attendee that they had to ASK for the TF documents at the 2nd meeting and were NOT available to the public (this is a violation of Open Meetings Laws). They were available at the 3rd and 4th meeting but NOT sure about the 1st meeting. But in the 3rd meeting, an important doc was missing in the publicly supplied materials; a spreadsheet of how all 30 TF members prioritized (all) proposed projects.

Some of these documents are available online (HERE) but most of them are not, including the Capital Outlay, just a short power point presentation. Not making ALL of the documents available to the public, either at the meetings or online could also be a violation of open meeting laws.

UPDATE: I found a document called “Bond Calculator” at the bottom of the document in small print it said this;

*The estimates above, are based upon financing the bonds over 25 years, using a 4% interest rate. The actual terms upon issuance will not be known until the bonds are sold. This calculator was created by the Sioux Falls School District and should be used for estimation purposes only.

Not only is this just an estimate – your taxes will go up over a 25 year period!

But that’s just the beginning.

Where the mystery starts is what happened between the 3rd and 4th meetings. The public was clearly left out of these negotiations, and my guess is that most of the TF members were to, or got docs at a separate time. It’s a head scratcher.

At the 3rd meeting the plan from the financial office and Super’s administration was to borrow the whole $190 million at the higher tax increase, all at once (I believe that was around $100 tax increase on a $185K valuation). It suddenly changed to $2 a month at the 4th meeting. This change was offered with little to NO explanation. They decided to spread out the tax increase (I believe over a 10 year period).

This is where they are not telling the story to the public or to the media. While it would be a $2 per month increase, that increase happens every year for the next ten years. In other words over the span of that time you will actually be paying $24 a month at the end. But that isn’t entirely true either, because you will also see an increase in your valuation, an increase yearly by the city council (they always pass this in July), opt outs from the County (they are building a new jail etc). And various other capital outlay levees. So while the first year this may be only $2 a month, that could easily be $240-$500 yearly increase by the end of the 10 year period. This of course hasn’t been explained to the public in great detail, so I’m speculating here. I can guarantee they are going to try to avoid that conversation moving towards the election this is why the strategy mysteriously changed in the dark of night between the 3rd and 4th meetings, unless specifically pressured by the media and the public to explain what the tax increase really looks like over the span of this loan they are going to move with the ‘$2 a month’ argument.

And let’s talk about the stand alone election they are planning for September 18. This has many issues in itself. I have been told by several voters who never miss an election that they voted in the 2017 stand alone school board election yet their ‘vote’ was never registered in voter data. Unlike using a ledger to mark off who voted in that election, they recorded the vote by computer. So were some people just not entered into the system that they voted even though their ballot was counted? Was the ballot counted? Some have suggested that a recount should occur of that election to make sure every one who actually voted gets put into the system. See, when you vote, government collects that data. They cannot record how you voted by they do know when you voted.

This is why a stand alone election ran by the School District is troubling. Will it be handled correctly? I’m not accusing the School District of voter manipulation, I’m just saying they have a poor record when running stand alone elections. Ballots locked up in cars, financial statements not available online, people showing up to absentee vote and the polling place is locked up or they have to wait for someone to unlock the room. All inexcusable sloppy practices.

While a stand alone election isn’t a bad thing, I think it is foolish to spend around $60K of taxpayer money on such an election when they could easily tie it into the General a couple of months away in November. Super Maher wants the election in September to move the bonds forward right away. But what’s a couple of months? Construction of the schools could occur year round, there is no reason to have a stand alone election unless there is a plan to hoodwink voters because they would have less people to convince to vote for this. Democracy works better when more people show up and participate. I actually think that they would get a higher percentage for the bond in the General because voter turnout is around 70% where school district stand alone elections have been as low as 4%. This is NO WAY to decide a historical $190 million dollar bond. Don’t think games haven’t been played before with supposed bond elections? Just look at the Events Center ‘advisory’ election. This was done because they knew they had little chance of getting the 60% passage like the school bond issue needs, so they made it a non-legally binding election and had the city council pass the bonds on an ‘advisory’ from the citizens. Oh, and there is also the concern that less precincts will be used like in the 2017 election where almost the entire North side of the city had NO polling places. Federal law is specific about disenfranchising voters – I’m looking into this more and will get back to you on it.

Some other interesting factors in the TF meetings;

• There was no definitive answer where the new HS would be located. The TF seemed to be split on whether to support accepting the Sanford gift of land. I look at this as a way for Sanford to position a HS by their sports complex and develop that area more. Is that a bad thing? Not sure, but something about the deal didn’t smell right to a lot of the TF members, including some people on the far east side of the district not having a new HS by the fastest growing part of the city, the SE corner. I suspect that the rubber stamp school board will graciously accept the Sanford gift just like they did with accepting the gift proposal.

• In the 2nd meeting, Doug Morrison, the new money dude purveyor for the school district who controversially got hired, said that overcrowding at Memorial could simply be solved by changing the boundaries and moving those students to McGovern which is only 60%(?) capacity. He said they don’t want to do that because they would anger some parents. What about the people who fund public education? If we could get by building only 1 or 2 schools instead of 3 wouldn’t that be beneficial to us in a lower bond and tax rate? The school board needs to make a bold move and change the boundaries. But they won’t.

• The chair and co-chair of the TF have possible conflicts of interest. Vernon Brown (Chair) is married to a teacher in the district and that teacher just happens to be life long friends with DeAnn Konrad, Public relations director for the school district. What kind of background information was Vernon provided by DeAnn around the kitchen table? DeAnn has also known Vernon for years, they used to work together at KELO-TV. I also wonder if Brown’s employer (SDN Communications) has any contracts with the school district? I don’t know? Does anybody else know?

Nan Baker (Co-Chair) is from the Baker family who owns First National Bank. Dougherty & Company who does bonding for many city, state, county and school district bonds must run those bonds through First National Bank. You can come to your own conclusion on that.

The DRAFT proposal will be presented to the School Board on June 6th at 2 PM, IPC center, they will vote on the final proposal on June 11 at the regular meeting at 5:30. I highly suggest the public shows up and starts asking hard questions about this bond. I think we should support funding public education, but we should also be fiscally responsible and transparent about it. The plan I have seen so far doesn’t even come close.

Maybe the new High School should be at the Mall?

The NEW High School Mascot

As a South DaCola foot soldier pointed out to me last night, maybe we should move the new HS to the Mall? With Younkers, SEARS and Toys’ R Us closing, we would have plenty of square footage, parking, a food court and when school is done for the day, teenagers can do what they do best, SHOP! It would be an economic boon for the mall.

They could call it MALL High School and they could have a bear as there mascot, they of course would call themselves ‘The Maulers”

Oops we forgot Public Input (5/30/2018)

Once we get past the Geo Domes and Holograms, George let’s them have it about home valuations.

The Sioux Falls Public School’s attempts to keep everyone in the dark by having meetings without paying attention to the public was illustrated on May 30, 2018 as the members tried to close out Task Force Meeting #4.

The school district has no intention of playing fair or above board in their attempts to spend $190,000,000 to build more vanity schools for the privileged. The audience called out the Task Force members and George Hahn spoke for many but by then what did it matter, the Task Force had already voted before any public could speak.

UPDATE: Final Sioux Falls School District Bond Task force meeting

UPDATE: Looks like they will be asking for $190 million dollar bond in a stand alone election in September. Never pass. Never. If they get 45% I would be shocked. The only saving grace of the night is that they will assess us over 10 years and incrementally raise taxes over that time period. They are going to sell this to us as a $3 a month increase ($185K valuation).

One of the best ideas of the night came from Public Works Director Mark Cotter (who I think knows passing the $190 million is going to be a challenge). He suggested a $126 million dollar bond and pay for the rest with capital outlay funds. He got poo-poo’d right away. They were quick to point out that they can’t trust Pierre and they may need that money for other stuff. In other words, get as much as we can and hey if the outlay money is still there, we’ll spend that to. A lot of greedy people run our school district.

The final meeting will be tonight at 5:30 PM at the IPC.

The group is expected to come up with a final price-tag and what exactly that will be paying for. They will also be discussing an election date. I think they are shooting for $150 million.

The Superintendent wants the election in September as a stand alone, which I think is a bad idea and will not get the 60% passage required, I think they would be better off having it in November.

I think they are assuming they will have a lower voter turnout which equates to a better chance of passing the bond issue. In other words they are going to appeal to people who they think will be willing to pass it. Sometimes this works, in this case I don’t think they will get passage for either date. I think they need to get the bond at or under $100 million. If they go with the $150 million price tag, that will equate to a $100 a year for every $100K valuation of home in property taxes.

While I know we need to build new schools, I think they should scrape some of the money from other sources and get the price tag down below $100 million. I also think they need a long range to 5 year plan in build all of the schools, spreading the expense out. I will vote against it if they can’t get it down to $100 million, and I have a feeling most people will to. I would be surprised if they even get 40% in favor of it.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls School District proposing $180 million bond

Full Video working now.

If I was outside looking in, I would say the bond will fail, big time at the polls. Why?

• $180 million dollar price tag (some on the task force suggested a lower price tag of $150 to build 3 immediate needed schools.

• A stand alone election in September (some on the task force said this will certainly doom the bond) but Maher maintains it needs to be done before November so the construction can begin ASAP. Another task force member testified that when West central(?) had a stand alone bond election it failed and continued to fail until they tied it in with another election.

• It needs a 60% passage. That will be virtually impossible. The EC, which wasn’t even a legal bond vote didn’t even get that, AND NO TAX INCREASE WAS ATTACHED TO THE Events Center.

• It would be a $100 a year tax increase for every $100K home valuation.

They really need to scale this back even more. My suggestion would to build TWO new schools (leave out the HS) and get the number under $100 million. What I can’t understand is how an elementary school would cost $17 million but a new HS would cost $84 million?

I would also find other resources to pay down the bonds besides property taxes. I think if they get that $100 increase to under $50 a year they may have a better chance.

Hold the election with the General in November.

I wasn’t able to watch the whole meeting, so please feel free to correct me if I got any of this information wrong or left anything out.

Sioux Falls School District Facilities Task Force Meeting – WED

The third meeting of the Sioux Falls School District Facilities Task Force meeting is this Wednesday, May 16, at IPC from 5:30 to 8 PM.  The meeting will go on over the entire 2.5 hours, but people can drop in at anytime.

Hopefully more public shows up this time.