by Elliott Stonecipher
(This is one in a continuing series of articles concerning the Caddo Parish School Board property tax millage proposition set for a May 2, 2015 election. If approved by voters, CPSB nets another $108,000,000 for new schools and other buildings.)
This article continues my countdown of Top 10 Reasons to vote “NO” on the Caddo Parish School Board’s tax-and-spend-and-debt plan. For those who missed reasons #10 and #9, click here.
REASONS #8, #7, and #6
#8. It’s Our School System, Not Theirs … Disrespect of Citizens, Part 1
Barry Rachal is the school board member in my district who has for years stridently opposed the building of new Caddo Parish public schools. Now, Rachal has inexplicably flip-flopped. He, alongside fellow member Larry Ramsey, has taken point in the over-the-top hawking of a tax plan which does precisely what the two conservative Republican board members often profess to abhor.
Mr. Rachal particularly gushes about the $24,500,000 new school in Southeast Shreveport. Given that he owns and runs a real estate company from and in the same residential base, conflict of interest questions have not surprisingly arisen. Rachal’s case is not helped by his refusal to identify, specifically, the for-profit interest for whom Caddo taxpayers will be building the school if the tax plan passes.
Angry for whatever reasons, Rachal recently used an email, shared among many, to flail away at opponents of the tax plan. He particularly targeted those who insist on the public’s right to ask school system bosses their questions about the plan.
The supposed places for such questions are the many meetings system officials have staged in schools around the parish. Those doing the hawking in those meetings are board members or top staff, the very ones who designed it, mainly in secret. Public officials or not, questions from the public are not allowed.
With no attempt to defend the system’s outrageous refusal, Rachal delivered this broadside …
….. “Set up your own damn community meeting or neighborhood meeting for a debate.”
Whether Rachal forgot or simply refuses to acknowledge it, those ARE the peoples’ “damn community meetings.”
We the people paid for the very school facilities in which these bosses stage their carnival barking. We pay Mr. Rachal’s school board salary. We pay the salaries of the top administrators who join him in putting on those hustles. That they do not honor and respect these facts is itself a great reason to Vote “NO.”
#7. Disrespect of Citizens, Part 2: “Dear Mr. Ramsey …”
As mentioned, CPSB members Barry Rachal and Larry Ramsey are the leaders of this taxing op. New member Susannah Poljak is another leader of the school board’s political team, but she is not yet up to speed. I am among those who hope she soon recognizes that board reform is our system’s constant, critical need.
As for Ramsey, fellow board members have outed him as the one behind Superintendent Lamar Goree’s whopper of a pay raise in February, a mere one year and a few weeks after he went to work.
There was no performance evaluation of any kind before the gift.
Including his “signing bonus” – what?! – and his next pay raise installment, school system adder-uppers say Dr. Goree will be scoring $235,000 a year plus an impressive array of side goodies. The vote to bestow the gift was 11-0, and, very tellingly, it was Mr. Ramsey who no-showed.
To put Goree’s take in local perspective, the Census Bureau reports that Caddo Parish earners, on average, make $24,308 a year. That is about one-tenth of Dr. Goree’s soon-to-be package. Though I know of no one who begrudges any Caddo superintendent competitive pay, the timing, nature, size and handling of this reward-for-who-knows-what was a slap in the face of many, if not most, taxpayers.
Yes, this school system is in real decline, and we should pray Dr. Goree can turn it around, but giving any fresh and new superintendent this kind of windfall this quickly is stupefying. It is also a disincentive for Goree to work harder and accomplish more. It confirms, yet again, the CPSB’s extravagance in spending (and wasting) taxpayers’ money.
As Ramsey, from near hiding, co-directs this tax-and-spend-and-debt campaign, he is simultaneously running for a seat on the Caddo Parish Commission. Pending the outcome of current litigation which challenges the constitutionality and legality of their taxpayer money haul, a Commissioner’s salary is more than double that of school board members. On top are buckets full of additional cash for retirement, health care, $15,000-per-year travel accounts, and more.
#6. (Vote NO Because) Throwing More Money at the CPSB Problem is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!
Even our school board’s strongest supporters never publicly assert that the outfit does not get and have a flood of taxpayer money gushing through it.
Thirty years ago, Caddo taxpayers gave our school board $2,600 per-year, per-pupil to do its job, equal to $5,900 today. Today, we give these “leaders” over $12,000 per pupil, each year. That is 127% more by way of inflation adjustment, plus another 103% in real increase.
In its editorial in opposition to the CPSB tax plan, The Times likewise headlined it: “More Money Won’t Fix Caddo Schools.” Their editorial is here.
Quite literally, I and many others believe, passing this tax-and-spend-and-debt plan is absolutely, precisely wrong. The CPSB’s record of failure can, by definition, only worsen if its decades-old profligacy continues.
… to be continued …
(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.)