Thu. Feb 29th, 2024

Opinion Piece By Samuel Strait – October 3, 2021

One would think that after the Del Norte Unified School District blew
through a previous $25 million dollar Bond issue from a voter approved
measure in 2008 without very much to show for it, they would put on
their thinking caps before trying out a “new” Bond measure to the tune
of $47 million.  Looking back at the previous Bond Measure where we the
tax payers were promised all sorts of over site and responsible spending
which did not occur.  How is it in such a brief period of time very few
of the current modernization projects failed to materialize?  And why
now is the District suddenly galvanized to begin the process?

The school district has had somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million
each year for the past five years.  Approximately 84% of that pays for
salary and benefits to it employees.  The remaining sum is distributed
between school supplies, operating expenses and budget transfers.  Does
anyone notice any glaring omissions in this list of expenses?  Try
MAINTENANCE!   Having just completed the announced $47 million school
bond measure survey, once again maintenance was clearly not in the fore
front of the district’s wish list.  Buried in all sorts of non essential
goodies, was the call for roof and window replacement, wiring and
plumbing, and little else in the way of real maintenance.

Question for those reading this piece, have you who are still employed,
received a raise in the past five years beyond the state government’s
mandated minimum pay raise?  Those that represent the 84% of the
district’s budget have received a combined COLA and direct raise of
13.6% or when the average wage for a school employee taps in at over
$75,000 per 180 day contract, the increase in compensation equates to
$5,500.  Not Bad for a nine and a half month per year job.  Then again,
it would likely be worth it if the local school district actually
accomplished its task, EDUCATION.

The past twenty months and nearly a year and a half of lost education
has been the prime accomplishment of the DNUSD, which now prioritizes
social services to homeless students, a bizarre Covid response in lieu
of on line learning, and don’t forget a school Superintendent who would
rather be vacationing in Japan rather than doing his job.  The mere fact
that District Superintendent, Jeff Harris, has the gall to suggest that
after years of lapsed maintenance, the local taxpayers should be asked,
with a straight face, to pay for that negligence is breath taking.  To
call the projected Bond Measure a move towards modernization “because
the school district is in need of serious maintenance” is a huge slight
of hand.

With the recent passage of sales tax increases in both the City and
County, plus the passage of a new fire tax assessment, nearly 12%
inflation in just the past three quarters with no end in sight, and the
prospect of increasing federal and state taxes to account for both
federal and state excess spending, when exactly is the citizen who pays
for all of this going to be able to afford another increase in taxing
from the school district.  $47 million in Bonds which translate to
nearly double that amount to pay it off.  To top that the school
district is planning on leveraging that $47 million into $80 million
additional tax payer dollars to do what?

Overseeing the original $25 million in Bond dollars was an oversite
committee.  Did anyone in the community become aware of anything that
they ever did or announced to the community how that money was spent? 
Perhaps that is something Mr. Harris should address before new dollars
get too far into the planning stage at the school district.  Similarly,
perhaps the district, now that they no longer have Bond money to spend, 
should be investing time in seeking some of the $9 billion dollars in
state school modernization money before asking locals to pony up for the
malfeasance that has occurred in its maintenance programs.

Superintendent, Jeff Harris

With the exposure of what exactly school district’s have been up to for
years during the Pandemic school closures, it is certainly past time for
serious reevaluation of Public Schools and how they spend tax dollars to
educate.  Seems as if the local district is more about “school
modernization”, what ever that means, clearly not maintenance or
education.  When asked to respond to the local DNUSD survey which will
determine whether or not the District will go forward in asking for $47
million more local dollars, consider what you got from the last Bond
Measure.  Then apply those results to that your child receives from the
public schools in the way of an education.  Should make you wonder what
it is you are paying for….

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