The Peninsula School Board, District 401 in Western Washington State, is putting a $50,000,000 levy on the November, 2013 ballot. If the Levy passes, this will be a nearly nearly 60% increase in the school portion of your property taxes. The tax effect on a home with a 250,000 assesment will be an increase of $348/year – on top of the current $3,031/year – for four years, assuming the District wouldn’t attempt another levy after this one expires. The levy is intended to provide, according to District 401’s presentations, new schools and remodeling of existing facilities. My opposition boils down to three points.
One: This request is being conducted as a levy, not a bond issue. Levies are customarily dedicated to ongoing operations expenditures, bonds are normally dedicated towards capital improvements: i.e. buildings, roads, bridges, etc. Levies by state law are limited to four years in duration. This levy would have trouble meeting the typical justification for a bond issue since not all, and maybe none of the proceeds, would be used for new construction. A bond issue requires 60% to pass. The levy proposal requires only 50% + 1, a slim requirement for allowing an extraction of $50M dollars from our struggling local economy. And this doesn’t include economically regressive ripple effects caused by the hit on small businesses and consumer spending power. Quoting famous economist Milton Friedman: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
Two: Wording in the resolution says the School District can use their own discretion to not spend levy proceeds on construction and remodeling improvements if the original intent “is deemed impractical”. Would the $50,000,000 then go just to ongoing maintenance and/or remodeling? Given the wording, the school board has recourse to spend these funds without any significant restraint. Another statement says that the district “could receive funds from the State…” to complete the project. If state funding isn’t approved, again this could be recourse for the school board to spend levy proceeds in ways other than new construction.
Last but not least: Government entities, from a school board to Congress have no profit motive, unlike the private sector who’s survival requires profit. Therefore, other incentives and techniques should be applied to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. Have our local and state agencies ever considered adopting groundbreaking management and efficiency models; e.g., Peter Drucker’s classical tenants of organizational efficiency, Management By Objective’s result-oriented management processes, Total Quality Management’s continuous product improvement, The Air Force’s Performance Management Program, Six Sigma’s process improvement strategies, or Lean Management techniques?
Our new Democrat governor professes a desire to integrate these private industry Lean Management techniques. Was the 2012 $80,000,000 levy spent using efficiency-optimizing techniques? A School Board reply to a request by our local Citizens for Responsible School Spending Committee, asking about adoption of this technique, indicated there has been no such implementation, and whoever answered the inquiry indicated he or she didn’t know what it meant.
What incentives exist for meeting goals by under-spending a budget? Why aren’t budgets tied to a population increase x CPI multiplier? How about teacher pay for performance vs. seniority? Have alternate facilities or leasebacks been considered? This project will pay prevailing wages (meaning union negotiated wage rates), meaning $35-hour flaggers and $41-hour drywall tapers at journeyman rates. (Out of your pocket.) Really? My wife is an RN and after 42 years of civilian and military nursing floor and administrative nursing experience makes about $55 hour.
Start to manage government like a business, get public pensions under control, repeal the prevailing wage, reduce unnecessary and capricious regulations and union contracts, and get the public sector out of anything that isn’t in the Yellow Pages, and I’ll consider voting for a tax increase. Let’s work on spending our existing budgets efficiently, instead of continually asking taxpayers for more without instituting common sense free market principles.