Reflection on the Naples School Bond Issue

Dear Editor,

Congratulations to all who voted for the Board of Education (BOE) Capital Project Bond for $21.3 million. And my sympathies for those who did not. Because now we start to pay way more than we could have/should and watch from “Under the Bus”.

The last few weeks have been interesting what with the toadying up to the BOE/Superintendent by parents with kids in the school and citizens who knew no facts, were never seen at any BOE meetings, but said they loved their and everyones’ kids so much they would approve any amount of Bond if “Johnny and Susie” were in luxury only 6 1/2 hours a day…8:00-2:30. No wonder “Johnny and Susie” don’t read or do math too well if the recent Bond issue is where voters chose to put their money. However, the minority of citizens brought balance with their wise questions and thoughtful observations.

Seriously, how are we NYS taxpayers going to afford the following increased expenses in our highest cost-of-living state? This is the perilous financial road the feckless BOE has lead us down and a 12% majority of taxpayers supported.

Only sixty-five percent ($9,750,000) of the first $15 million will be covered by NYS aid money…if NYS has it. REMEMBER, NYS is $10 BILLION in debt? District taxpayers will have to come up with 35%($5,250,000), plus $6,300,000 not NYS-aided. So $11,550,000 for 17 years must be raised by Naples School District taxes just for Phase 2, about $679,000 per year which can only come from District taxpayers.

REMEMBER, the BOE wants Phase 3 by 2014 which the BOE estimates will cost about $19 million…not including the bus garage…so another 3-4 million by 2016? So in 5-6 years the District taxpayers will be paying for $54+ million for 20+ years both in increased local and state taxes…or about $2,700,000 more a year. And almost none of these expenses has to do with classroom education.

When asked, BOE claimed it does not do, does not believe in, long-range planning. My long-range planning says I cannot afford the current BOE members and their bad decisions:

…no construction-management company advice BEFORE Phase 2 Bond vote.

…no interest in a local Clerk-of-the-Works(C-W) to watch for mistakes/fraud.

…20-$728 door knobs, 2-$6,400 handicapped sinks in DRAFT “Building.

Condition Survey”. Does anyone base a $21.3 million decision on a DRAFT except our current BOE? And no BOE has any commercial construction experience though one has residential (asked what “debt service” was at last meeting), one is a landscaper so I guess we’ll get nice bushes though all the current ornamental’s have severe scale infestation. But this is the same BOE that voted to spend $35,000 on a dead maple in the high school yard…so no suprises there. And many “Citizen Group” members say they were not listened to. But the BOE can claim they had one.

…on-going District maintenance issues like painting and refinishing that should be done by District 5-member full-time Maintenance crew with a $1.17 million ANNUAL budget… supplemented by local tradespeople so some tax money can be returned to the District taxpayers.

…no prudent use of the $4.5 million in reserves from previous over-taxing. Okay, so the BOE has gotten away with over-taxing us for years…now at least use it wisely to save interest costs of borrowing for Phase 2…didn’t happen.

Where is the BOE practicing ANY oversight? I attend all meetings and I can tell you there is none…but I’m sure the Record will hear from countless “vote yes” citizens who have never been seen at a single meeting, but have all the answers.

I challenge the current BOE to explain with facts/figures how they held the architect and his DRAFT “Building Condition Survey” accountable to use taxpayers money wisely, or, the steps they can still take to ensure a better outcome. I’ll be waiting.

REMEMBER, in May 3 BOE members have to run again…Mike Boggs, Barb Howard, and Margo Ulmer. All three voted for digging up and moving the 3 tennis courts (BOE spent $84,000 on upgrades in 2001), the elementary playground, and the working High School septic system…as a wise use of $1.3 million (20%) leftover tax money over-budgeted in Phase 1. The whole BOE had a 100% lock-step “yes” vote going with no intelligent discussion or wise questioning, before they voted. They are a “rubber-stamp” of the Superintendent’s grandiose wishes and are spending us into the poorhouse.

A reasonable and adequate Bond issue would have been Phase 1,2,3, all for about $12-13 million, paid for with $3.5 million in reserve funds, the rest nearly all NYS aidable. Instead the District has saddled us with a huge debt we are now forced to pay. So before April 10, muster out some courageous, think-for-themselves citizens who will run for the 3 seats on the BOE, who can stand up to the spend-thrift plans of the current Superintendent and make the best use of the $21.3 million BLANK CHECK the taxpayers just handed to the current BOE.

Hazlett has a 10-year Pilot(tax-free status), shorting the Village tax rolls about $334,000 a year. The Village Board wants us to have sewers for another $600 a year plus $1-3,000 for hook-up costs…for a 17-year total of $11,700 per household. And I have a working system in a house with one occupant…so will I be forced to hook up? And actually “waste” the money I put into the state-of-the-art system in my backyard as I planned for the future 14 years ago?

REMEMBER, the BOE all make about $100,000 a year…or more with SS/Military retirements/NYS teacher retirement, and spouse’s income. Remember retired teachers do not pay NYS taxes?…and 7 BOE members are retired teachers, 5 of whom live outside the Village and so will not be facing the sewer expense. So maybe we need to elect BOE who pay taxes so they know how it feels?

As to those of you who voted against the Bond…Bravo!…gird your loins for Phase 3. And I’ll meet you to link arms when the bulldozers show up to level the tennis courts/playground/dig up the septic. We’ll make the 6:00 news and save the District taxpayers $1.3 million.

And I love kids…I want to see them exposed to more art, music, be helped by aides, keep sports, have more AP choices, Dual Credit, maybe IB (International Baccalaureate like Bloomfield, Canandaigua, Victor), Gifted and Talented, etc. Oh, we just spent some of that money on silly stuff. Sorry, kids.

Here is the behavior of your current BOE:

You know the cuts the BOE/Superintendent claim they agonized over so…so much that they waited 12 hours, after the Bond passed, to call 12 employees into the two principals’ offices to say the position had been reduced to 1/2 time (no benefits) or cut (no benefits, no job)?

Previous events of March 8 and 16:

…when asked 2 weeks previously at a BOE meeting on March 16, BEFORE THE BOND VOTE, the BOE claimed they did not know “anything” about any cuts.

…at a Budget Committee Meeting on March 8, when the Superintendent was asked by a BOE member if there would be cuts, the Super. said, “There will be no cuts this year.”

At the same meeting, the Business Manager said she guesstimated $400,000, surplus, by June 30…(about the same cuts amount the BOE okayed on March 23.) I was at the meeting and heard the good news…no cuts and a $400,000 surplus!

And then the back-peddling began: Back to the March 23 BOE meeting… the President told an aide who had been cut, she must have “misunderstood” and “misremembered” what the Superintendent said when her job was cut, misunderstood the message that the Superintendent would “help with a good job recommendation and with resume writing”. What an insult! And think of the turmoil these 12 people went through until the BOE meeting that night…some thinking they may lose their house or car, having to radically change their lives if they were loosing their incomes.

A third BOE, member of the Budget Committee, claimed the Superintendent never said, “no cuts this year”. He “disremembered” he was in Florida, on vacation, when the meeting was held. And neither of the other 2 BOE Budget Committee members supported his statement…so that BOE member was just absent, claiming to be present.

And then, amazingly, the BOE and Superintendent went through all the cuts they were considering, amounting to about $4-500,000. And then, the BOE PRESIDENT said, “all the cuts are null if all the bargaining units agree to a wage freeze”. The wheels just came off the bus. And those 12 employees who got thrown under the bus that morning were left scratching what was left of their heads. But thanks to the BOE, the Superintendent and the “vote yes” people, those cut/maybe cut/uncut/to be cut, people, have company because there are lots of taxpayers under the same bus. “Say, Mary, these tire treads taste good!”

But the BOE and Superintendent are banking on your forgetting the current nightmare by May. Show them you remember just fine, are disgusted and scared, and vote in 3 new BOE members. It cannot be worse. This crew has had their chance.

Judy DiRaddo