In consideration of the proposed 10-year levy for $40 million for schools, a little history is in order. It was only a few years ago that we taxpayers voted on a property tax increase for school facilities. A year or two after that, the school “leaders”—and I use that word sparingly—came back to taxpayers with a message of “Did we say ‘facilities?’ Really, we meant ‘salaries!’ and taxpayers foolishly approved it, thus reallocating money raised for X for purpose Y. (Is there such a thing as a “crisis” in salaries? No, actually, there isn’t.) And now we are being asked again for money for facilities.
In economic terms, this behavior is called “gross fiscal mismanagement,” if not “outright financial malfeasance.” We taxpayers should think of it as a “bait and switch.” To which I respond, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Meanwhile, we are seeing ads, cards in our mailboxes, with pictures of cute kids, and the message “our future depends on you.” (Who is paying for the ads, cards and overall marketing campaign? How much is it costing?)
As a taxpayer, I now have zero confidence that the powers that be in the School District have a clue what they are doing besides willfully misleading the taxpayers yet again. A few questions:
Who associated with the School District participated in/advocated for the above fiscal bait-and-switch? Are they still associated with the School District? If so, we taxpayers should have no confidence that we won’t see another bait-and-switch.
Has anybody independently (that is, not associated with the School District) objectively looked at the criticality of the mishmash of what is being asked for? As a naval officer, I managed hundreds of millions of dollars in construction projects and a huge facilities budget covering dozens of naval activities, and I know very well that many entities ask for funding of “less critical” projects first. Then, they come back and plead hardship that the really critical projects aren’t yet funded! I am sure nobody associated with Blaine County schools would do that. Oh wait, they already did.
Last but far from least, I am sick to death of the narrative that everyone who lives here is a rich second-home owner and has loaded pockets that need picking on a regular basis. Per the above, there appears to be a woeful ignorance of basic economics 101; namely, that our homes are not liquid assets. If you raise my property taxes, I don’t have a “reservoir” of funds to pay for that (and I should not have to sell my home to pay the higher taxes). And, my employer is not necessarily going to give me a pay increase because my taxes are higher for yet another year. I have to cut X to pay for more Y.
Every parent should understand the following analogy: If you give your kid $10 for a field trip, and she comes home to say, “I spent the money on candy, please give me another $10,” the answer should be a teachable moment: “No, you need to learn to manage what I gave you. You can have more of X or less of Y or more of Y and less of X. But you don’t get more because you misspent what I gave you.”
The Blaine County School District abused the taxpayer trust a few years ago, and as such, they now have my vote of “no confidence.”
Mary Ann Davidson lives in Ketchum.