(This is one in a continuing series of articles concerning the Caddo Parish School Board property tax millage plan set for a May 2, 2015 election. If approved by voters, CPSB nets another $108,000,000 for new schools and other buildings.)
An unhealthy air is settling around the growing public debate about the Caddo Parish School Board’s tax plan. In all my years of involvement in many, many such tax plans from and by many governmental bodies, I have never seen one as steeped in secrecy, and otherwise off-key, as this one.
It is clear to a growing number of us that our school board and administration are pushing this political op far too hard. They are doing too many non-transparent and over-the-top things. There seems far more on the line for some of these folks than “just” another push to gather a good-sized heap of taxpayer money.
The Most Expensive Op-Ed Ever
I decided to write this piece when I read an online post of a related op-ed in the Shreveport Times. To be honest, I was momentarily shocked by the title / headline of the piece: “Caddo Poised to Be National Model of Turnaround Success.” Our school system a “national model”?
Pardon my incredulity, but how could that claim be true – especially just now, just when the school board is trying to get another $108,000,000 by way of Shreveport’s highest-in-Louisiana property taxes?
As it turns out, the writer is part of a team of consultants from Virginia who are working for the CPSB and administration. While we certainly hope their project succeeds, some of us know only too well how many such claims have been made over the years, never to prove true.
As it turns out, that op-ed is on the receiving end of a taxpayer cash pipeline. Subject CPSB documents detail that this group has been paid at least $661,963 by the school board, $289,650 last year and $372,313 this year. Yep … ‘had to be more to it.
The disclaimer included with the op-ed, which is the responsibility of the author and CPSB, noted only the group’s “collaboration” with the school system, not any payments to them.
No Plan B? Yeah, right.
As I previously wrote, I am still blown-away that a half-dozen new school board members signed onto this “plan” before they so much as took their oaths of office. That means before they attended their first meeting. I have noted as well the studied secrecy in which the plan was hatched, and how very little the public had to say in the matter. These facts are far more important than most political non-combatants may imagine.
Government officials hide things because facts and truth are in the way of what they want to do. Period.
When this tax plan was released, the administration told us it was their way or the highway, expressed as, “This plan is the plan. No changes. There is no Plan B.”
What? Do they mean that if this fails they are finally, after decades, done with attempts to build a taj mahal school in South Caddo? Really? I don’t believe that. Not even a repackaging of this plan, much like the system “repurposes” schools then calls them “closed”? We’ll see.
While we are at this, how many are aware the CPBS has a plan for other property tax millages soon expiring? How many are hearing about a CPSB plan for a sales-tax increase, too? If these assertions are false, why doesn’t the CPSB rule them out, in a public meeting, one by one?
To judge all of this, we should go by what has just been demonstrated. This plan made it to public view after it had been worked out by a couple of dozen folks over a period of an unknown number of months. The secrecy attached, as I personally experienced and have publicly described, reveals some inexplicable need to spring these things on us. That is never, ever good for taxpayers.
In fact, the CPSB is merely telling us about the first payment due. They will spring the rest of it on us only when they are ready.
Their way or the highway? Easy. Highway.
Superintendent Goree’s Reward
Let me begin with what I tell all who ask me about it: Dr. Goree seems an good person to hire for the purpose at hand. Though he isn’t the first Caddo superintendent to be hired for precisely such ops as this one – we well remember another one hired nearly fifteen years ago to get the South Caddo school built – he may well be the best.
Regardless, I have never – n e v e r – heard of a local school superintendent getting a $60,000 raise, even spread over two years, before their first year on the job is complete. That simply is not done. Except this time. It is, at best, out of order, and, at worst, insulting to those of us who were thus handed the tab.
I note that $60,000 is more than double the “per person money income” of Caddo Parish residents. Our residents have, on average, $24,308 per year to spend.
What’s With the Intimidation of Teachers? / Whose Property Is It?
Then there is the matter of the CPSB and administration intimidating teachers with their “faculty meetings” to “explain” the bond issue. Teachers who express concern say these are not “faculty meetings,” and are more like warning meetings, as in, “Get on board this train … now … period.” That is heavy-handedness, not “explanation.”
These faculties can, however, nip this stuff in the bud by (a) reporting it to non-CPSB parish officials, and / or (b) memorializing what took place in such a gathering immediately after it ends.
What about the CPSB and administration’s use of school facilities for meetings in which they push this tax. Meanwhile, use of those same facilities by opposition gatherings is reportedly denied. Plan opponents, of course, pay the costs of these facilities just as proponents do.
It is important to remember that our school board and staff cannot legally campaign for passage of this tax. They are legally allowed only to provide information about it, and nothing else. When informing crosses the line into pushing for the approval of these taxes, the law is violated.
… More later …
(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. His work is strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is appreciated.)