BONNER COUNTY PROPERTY OWNERS:
THE LPOSD’s POT OF GOLD
by Bret Roush
The Lake Pend Oreille School District (LPOSD) is again asking to have their pot at the end of the rainbow to be filled with another school levy at the expense of the Bonner County property owners. If this levy is passed by the voters on March 14th, beginning July 1, 2017, anyone that owns real estate in Bonner County will be required to put their pieces of gold into the LPOSD pot in the amount of $8,300,000 and then to make another trip to the pot for another deposit of gold in the amount of $8,700,000 the following year, for a grand total of $17,000,000.
This levy is $1.3 million higher than the last one, an all-time record. It doesn’t matter if you have any money to put in their pot, as your share for their pot will be on your property tax bill once levied. The consequence if you don’t pay your share? After 3 years of non-payment your property will become a tax deeded property and end up being owned by the county.
On the LPOSD website, the stated reasons for the levy is for staff funding, student achievement and student activities funding. Sounds like these ideals are needed, don’t they? And heaven forbid, if this levy doesn’t pass then the world as we know it will end. But before you panic that the schools will close and our children will not be educated, let’s take a look at some facts that LPOSD does not want you to know:
- In fiscal year 1999-2000 school attendance was at 4147 and dropped sharply to 3656 in 2011-2012 and has stayed in the 3600’s. It is currently at 3637 students in this school district.
- LPOSD 2016 Income:
- $ 8,251,525 Property taxes
- $18,837,399 State of Idaho
- $278,978 Services
- $ 3,651,579 Grants and contributions
- $ 420,700 Miscellaneous
According to the Idaho Dept. of Lands, LPOSD received $387,584 from the endowment funds from our forests in FY 2015-2016.
Elementary & Secondary Instructional Services $10,369,430
Alternative, Vocational & Technical Services $ 1,581,775
Special Ed, Gifted & Talented Services $ 1,421,742
Interscholastic & School Activity Programs $ 710,659
Adult & Summer School Programs $ 96,835
Under “Support Services”:
Attendance, Guidance & Health Program $ 765,775
Special Ed Services Program $ 767,970
Instruction Improvement & Educational
Media Programs $1,698,993
District Administration Program $ 513,438
School Administration Program $1,976,480
Business Operations Program $ 829,843
Custodial & Maintenance Program $3,036,806
Transportation Program $2,184,014
Other Support Services $ 47,364
Child Nutrition Program $ 34,074
Contingency Reserve $ 130,000
Not counting retirement and health benefits that LPOSD spends money on, the above totals are $26,165,198. The actual elementary and secondary instructional services are $10,369,430 leaving a difference of $15,795,768. If the purpose of a school district is to educate our children, then looking at all of the various programs and services, there appears to be a disproportionate amount of money going into the LPOSD pot of gold that could be easily eliminated or at the very least reduced. Last year an average of $720/student in Idaho came from voter approved supplemental levies. For LPOSD that figure is 3.3 times the statewide average or $2,386/student.
The Bonner County property owner should also be aware that in 2015 and 2016 $60,000 was spent for public employee bonuses to three LPOSD executives without any bonus policy or transparency to what performance was being rewarded. $34,796 was paid in 2016 alone, although there is no school board policy for the issuance of bonus pay or deferred compensation. There is a lack of transparency and accountability regarding these funds, as four FOIA (freedom of information act) requests have been denied when asked why these performance bonuses were paid.
This LPOSD practice raises some questionable operational and potentially civil statute concerns under both public record law, I.C. 74-102 and open meeting law, I.C. 67-2340. The State Attorney General’s Office is casting doubt of LPOSD’s denial and secreting of goals and objectives. It should be noted that these payments are year-end performance bonuses and that the attempted persuasion to cover up this bonus process, coupled with overwhelming evidence of careless spending, should make all taxpayers suspicious of LPOSD management, the executive staff who are co-authors of this $17,000,000 supplemental levy, and the supplemental levy content.
A performance bonus is common in the private sector of employment for jobs or tasks performed above and beyond expectations. In public employment they are so rare that a check of a cross section of 23 other school districts in the State of Idaho reveals no other Superintendents receiving a performance bonus.
The next natural question of the tax-paying public to LPOSD would be, beyond the Superintendent, why is staff subordinate to Woodward also receiving performance bonuses to a maximum of 10% of their annual salaries, amounting to over $10,000.00 each? A FOIA request detailing the performance goals for 2014-2015 for Superintendent Woodward based on his contract was denied on May 27, 2015. The June LPOSD payroll report displays an extra amount of $13,170, which “coincidentally” would be 10% of Woodward’s annual salary for that year of $131,700.
LPOSD’s Superintendent Shawn Woodward’s salary is $141,000. If Woodward’s salary is compared to other districts, such as Meridian in west Ada County, Woodward earns more than his peers whose student and staff population is approximately ten times greater than LPOSD’s student and staff population.
Sandpoint High School has approximately 1000 enrolled students. How can the school district justify having over 120 paid coaches and advisors? Why are coaches being paid $67,000 for longevity? Another question is, why does Sandpoint High School have a coaching staff of 15 for Sandpoint Varsity, Junior Varsity and Freshman Football? And when you add $3,137 allocated for a concession stand, it becomes necessary for the taxpaying voter to call a “time out.” When elitists feel their wants (not their needs) are greater than those who pay their bills without having a say on what bills should be paid, it is time to put a cover on the pot of gold.
If our children in the public school system were actually being taught the basics they will need to be successful in today’s world, then perhaps 68% of our Idaho State budget going to education might be a little more palatable, but that issue is a subject for another article in itself.
Why does the school district keep putting levies in place to be voted on, not just during the May primary and November elections, but a total of four times in one year? Because they can! The voters of Bonner County will be the ones to make the decision on whether another school levy is to be implemented when people show up to vote on Tuesday, March 14th, 2017.