LPOSD Not Forthcoming with details of Convoluted Financing Scheme
While I appreciate the fact that the Lake Pend Oreille School District finally decided to inform the public at large of its huge upcoming levy on August 30, I find the six meetings divided between three days and many held exclusively at school locations an example of “too little, too late”.
At the writing of this letter, two of the six meetings have been held. Neither provided any information whatsoever about the complicated financial structure the CFO had devised to make this levy happen. She did this with the assistance of Hawley Troxell, a Boise law firm which advertises its services as “a creative and entrepreneurial approach designed to get results”. The objective, to extract the maximum allowable amount of tax dollars from citizens, was achieved: in an uncommon financial framework for a $55 million levy. Check out the details on the Master Facilities Plan on LPOSD’s website. Good luck in trying to understand it, and then keep your emotions in check when you find out that we will no longer be owning these school buildings for the duration of this six-year levy – they will be turned over to an “intermediary” (bank, foundation) who will be leasing them to us until the levy is paid off. What happens if we can’t make the lease payments? You’d have to ask the intermediary, and we don’t know who that will be.
If you dig deeper into this financial morass, ,you will also discover that both the high-powered law firm and the Harvard-educated CFO never noticed the mathematical error in the allowable levy rate calculation. On the ballot it is 0.2%, which is the correct figure; but in Hawley Troxell’s document in LPOSD brochures, levy mailings, and board minutes the amount is shown as 0.0002%. Of course the huge difference in the rates would make an equally huge difference in what your tax bill would look like, but they figured you wouldn’t notice, and they haven’t bothered to notify you. Just to be clear: 0.2% is $2 per $1,000, and it more than doubles what you’re currently paying.
What we did learn at the two meetings was that the 13-member Facilities Planning Committee put in place by the Superintendent, made up only of individuals directly, closely, or formerly associated with LPOSD, “intentionally” did not seek members of the public. This, according to committee chair Kendon Perry, was done to avoid “chaos”. So inviting knowledgeable members of the public in matters of school construction who could look at issues with a cool, unjaundiced eye would make it a chaotic process? Mr. Perry’s statement spoke volumes about the extent to which LPOSD’s inner circle goes to squeeze yet another levy out of you and keep you ignorant of the actual facts.
This levy is not about the students or the teachers. This levy is about pulling the wool over the eyes of the property owners and voters of Bonner County.