Exclusive: Superintendent Quietly Planning School Bond Tax Hike

 

 

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

 

The outlines of the plan for a huge School Board bond issue paid for with a tax increase are taking shape…out of the Sunshine.

That’s no surprise since the campaign Superintendent Robert Runcie is planning for a bond referendum would be largely out of the Sunshine, too.

This is according to several well-placed sources, at least two who talked with Runcie.

“I’m supposed to be doing this as Superintendent — plan for the future,” Runcie says. “It would be irresponsible for me not to have started this conversation.”

Runcie says that Broward’s “capital program is in such bad shape that our money (predicted from Tallahassee and other sources) goes negative after next year.  Something has to be done.”

The School Board will discuss the capital budget next Tuesday.

The idea is to plug this hole with bonds.

The business community  (i.e., builders, lobbyists and others doing business with the Board who stand to make money from more construction.) would pay for the campaign to sell the bond issue to the public, which must approve it in a referendum. A business-funded political committee would be a chief fund raising and campaign arm, allowing the campaign to enjoy looser financial reporting requirements and hold meetings outside of the Sunshine Law.

Runcie has already touched base with so-called opinion leaders – activists, business community leaders and city officials.

City officials are being wooed with promises of revamped schools and new schools in their communities.

One of the referendum promises: Improved technology for students.

But new technology has a shelf life of what, six months? If a bond issue was floated 15 years ago for improved technology, taxpayers would still be paying for Apple II computers.

Runcie counters this argument by saying the school system probably has no choice except bonds.  He says the schools are crippled now by a lack of computers and updated technology. Some students must wait long periods to take state required tests that must be done on computers, he says.

“We have to find a way to pay for an upgrade,” the superintendent says.

The bond plan is surely coming to the ballot. When its outline will be made public is anybody’s guess.

The major question that voters will need answered before they should even consider supporting a tax increase for this bond issue: How can the public be assured that the money will be wisely spent? We only need to remember last year’s school bus snafu.

Here is another example:

Among the millions in unmet construction needs are making many schools compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  For instance, some schools still have bathrooms and classrooms that can not accommodate wheelchairs.

The ADA law was passed by Congress in 1990. How many billions has the school system spent on construction and renovations since then?

Runcie knows that for any referendum to be successful “the public has to have confidence in the Board.”

Do they have confidence in the Board yet?

You decide.

 



30 Responses to “Exclusive: Superintendent Quietly Planning School Bond Tax Hike”

  1. Dean Ledbetter says:

    Nothing about this story surprises me. Remember the school board is comprised of tax and spend liberals. Their idea of management oversight is approving the budget increases presented to them. There is little substantive discussion at these meetings and the public is bored with their process. With so little real management going on, no wonder the public is shut out and the unmitigated arrogance of twisted minds prevails.

  2. City activist robert walsh says:

    Listen here slim, you need more money for your schools you hustle the Governor. W/ over 6 billion in lottery sales I would think you will get whatever($) you need.. There is no need for Broward county residents to have to pay more taxes than they already pay. Again how dare you, w/ 6 billion in lottery sales.

  3. Ha Ha Ha says:

    The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. But many schools in Broward County were built well before that (think 1970s).

    New technology for the schools is clearly needed. There was a news article just a few days ago talking about how Florida can’t follow the Common Core’s testing process because not a single school district in the entire state of Florida has the computers necessary to do that.

    The need is clearly there. So the best approach to take is “Trust, but verify.”

  4. no way says:

    a school bond in Nov 2014 will NOT pass
    by the time that election rolls around, the courthouse cost over runs will be evident and the county will be whining for a penny sales tax increase to pay for it
    by then marty kiar will have more high powered federal judges whining for a new federal courthouse we have to kick in fo
    the property values will still be flat, cities will be upping millage rates and fire fees
    AND VOTERS WILL VOTE FOR A SCHOOL BOND?
    no way
    TFB Runcie
    the facilities dept and others that squandered hundreds of millions of dollars every year during the boom have poisoned the well

  5. PandaBear says:

    …Some students must wait long periods to take state required tests that must be done on computers… All Tally has to do is extend the FCAT testing window by 2 wks. for free! The window for finals for Broward HS credit courses can be extended as well. Also free!

  6. Floridan says:

    Why don’t we just admit that the Republican goal to destroy public education as we have know it has been all but complete?

    The logical solution to the funding of K-12 education is to privatize the public schools. That way, if there is a need for additional funding the CEOs and lobbyists can go directly to Tallahassee, out of public view, and get what they need. You child will probably be no smarter, but the investors will do just fine.

  7. neverends says:

    can NOT even fathom the voters approving it

  8. Former SB Insider--what's old is new again says:

    This is nothing new. Till was planning a bond issue; he had the businesses and lobbyists working with him. He was doing it in secret–some of the board members found out and that is one of the reasons they fired him.

    Notter was planning a bond issue, working with the business community as well, but he had the good sense to know it wouldn’t pass before he left.

    Runcie is nutsy if he thinks the community will go for a bond. No confidence in the board; empty seats already all around the county; and what happened to that state law that wouldn’t allow new construction as long as there were empty seats anywhere? Last count, weren’t there like 15,000 empty seats? Albeit in areas where no one wants to send their children, but still….

  9. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    This will lose just as badly as the last one did, 71-29. The same people who will see huge returns on their investments (campaign contributions and tax effort) are those who were there before.

    This brings back memories. Buddy and Bill Hirschman were with the Sun-Sentinel, and they covered the campaign. Art Kennedy, James Sparks and I were leading the fight against the sales tax, and Buddy dubbed us “The Gang of Three.” That was funny.

    We and about 15 other souls ran all over the county chasing the ed establishment to refute them at the meetings they held. We had to go to court to make them give us the schedule of their meetings because they didn’t want us to know where they were meeting.

    Florida Trend (September 1995) did a feature on it (How Big Money Buys a School Board) with the reporter, David Poppe, telling how he sat in on a session with Sam Fields and the others who were pushing the tax. Sam wasn’t pleased there was a reporter listening to strategy, and he said “Ray (de la Feuilliez), can’t you throw him out the window?”

    They actually tried to keep the public from knowing there was an election to raise taxes.

    So they formed a PAC which allowed them to have closed meetings.

    Mr. Runcie hasn’t lived through what most of us here in Broward have, so it’s understandable that he wouldn’t know the depth of the mistrust the public has. Not to mention the arrests and the Grand Jury.

    I believe this district can turn around, but it’s not there yet. We’ll let you all know when it is.

    FROM BUDDY:

    Fields was atrocious during that Penny Sales Tax fiasco in his treatment of the media. The self-described liberal Fields preaches total transparency, even donating money to WikiLeaks in the past few years. But when it came to something he was involved in which was of a high public interest that he was running — the sales tax referendum campaign — he tried to shut out reporters. Reporters, including me, worked around him.

    Can you imagine, Charlotte, if the system had that extra money how they would have wasted it and in addition, lined the pockets of lobbyists?

  10. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Friends,

    Runcie is planning for it because it is entirely possible if done farily, if properly explained, with a grass roots basis of support, a slim majority may vote to improve our school. That’s because the amount homeowners will pay each year in added tax is very small. Something like $20 a year should be ample to get the job done.

    If however the school board wants Pembroke Pines or Coral Springs or high voting communities like that with strong charter schools to be supportive, they will have to include all of our public schools in that funding mix. Not just some. Nobody’s going to vote for this knowing their own kid’s school can’t benefit and who could blame them for that.

    Unless the school board can get past their senseless discrimination against charter school, this effort will fail and they know it. Too many parents have already left traditional public schools choosing instead to enroll their kids in a charter. More are coming and very slowly the school board sees itself going out of business because they simply refuse to do what they must to stop that trend; improve the quality of their product.

    This is not 1980 or 1990 anymore in Broward. The school board can’t automatically county on the support of Mommies in every community to stand behind whatever they want. Mommy knows better now, she’s been burned too many times.

    If they do it in the right ways they can succeed. If they are transparent in their plan, if they are fair and inclusive of all public schools, many including me will support the effort and fight hard to get it done. There’s no question about it — Many of our schools are crumbling and need capital repairs and improvements.

    Peace.

    Angelo

  11. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Former SB Insider: There never was a directive or law from Tallahassee about not building new schools. The district lied. Once again. What’s the constant? Just look at the familiar names.

    As for Common Core, it’s the old 60s New Math redux, with data mining added for good measure. It’s being pushed quickly because the supporters don’t want anyone to realize how lacking it is.

    There are, however, lots of people who are expecting to make millions on it.

    As in the technology that it demands, guess who’s ready and willing to sell it to the districts. As in the evaluations that’ll be needed,guess who’s ready to sell that.

    It needs to be cut off at the head, and the Senate President and House Speaker see that. The Comm. of Ed. who was defeated in Indiana because of his support of CC needs to see the light too. Along with Gov. Scott.

    I’m not a Tea Partier. I’m NPA, fiscal conservative, social moderate.

    Just google it and you’ll learn what it’s really about.

  12. Ana Gomez-Mallada says:

    As usual, on the right track in saying that the school board sees itself going out of business because they simply refuse to do what they must to stop that trend; improve the quality of their product. It is also true that they can only succeed “If they do it in the right ways they can succeed. If they are transparent … if they are fair and inclusive of all public schools…” And that is where the pedal meets the proverbial metal. Transparency, fairness and inclusiveness are all the antithesis of the way the Broward School Board operates.

    Look for the School Board to waste millions of our dollars to sell this tax to a county that won’t be buying.

  13. Blaise says:

    Angelo-I don’t think you realize how sexist you sound. Maybe in your house it works this way, but it is not just the mom focusing on their child’s education.

    Oh-and I will never vote for 1 penny to go to a charter school. Your city and your overpaid city manager double dipping is a big reason why.

  14. Kevin Tynan says:

    Charlotte – I remember the last attempt to do a bond and it went down by a wide margin but I forgot it was 70/30. I do not expect much different this time.

    I also agree with Buddy that had it passed the money would have been wasted under the old regime. While I see some progress, I can’t say that the system can be trusted to not waste new money.

  15. Ghost of McLovin says:

    @Floridan: Seriously? Every poor decision made in Broward County for the last 30+ years has been made by a Democrat, or a Board consisting of a majority of Democrats. Its comical to keep blaming Republicans for all the corruption, cronyism and ineptitude perpetrated upon the residents of Broward County. wah wah wah wah

  16. ex compassionate conservative says:

    I have lived in Broward county for almost 24 years. The public schools are in far better shape than when I first moved here.

    I have no problems with charter schools unless they create problems.

    Overall, a bond issue to me sounds like a “Detroit” solution which will only ensure that I and my family leave SFLA the same way we left high expense NJ/NYC.

    I prefer the “Pay as you go” planning in Parkland. We have goals and set aside funds to pay for them so there is no debt , just paid for facilities.

    The student population of Broward is falling and this would be a great opportunity to save, reinvest and not screw taxpayers.

    If the Tea Party had brains they would be proposing solutions to control pension costs without drooling in hating labor. But I guess asking a Black Man who is the President for his National ID every week makes more sense.

  17. Mary Sessions says:

    I wonder what is being spent on and where money is being spent for the current budget year. It would be interesting to see where the money is going now. I bet you could shift money around to accommodate the purchase of new technology. Unfortunately the democrat solution is raising taxes. The people in the county can’t afford more taxes. How many are already on the government tit?

  18. Ha Ha Ha says:

    School Board spending here (Page 2):

    http://www.broward.k12.fl.us/comptroller/cfo/cfo/news/12-13FactsAboutYourSchoolTaxes.pdf

    More information: browardschools.com

  19. Rico Petrocelli says:

    All cities start with a balanced budget, so does the School Board. I want my city of Plantation and the School Board to prove to me they have made changes that will prevent this from being an “Ongoing” situation, year after year, then ask for Bond money, or in Plantations case, re-structuring of an existing Bond. Plantation hasn’t changed a thing, either has the School Board.

    Rico Petrocelli

    Former Councilman
    City of Plantation

  20. Christine says:

    Mary.

    Actually .

    It would be teat not tit.

  21. garbage in/ garbage out says:

    do we know who’s out with runcie’s principal relocation list? i can only hope my principal was on “out” list….

  22. Floridan says:

    @Ghost of McLovin – I said nothing about the local school board because I wasn’t addressing that issue.

    My point is that the GOP in Tallahassee has consistently undermined public education in our state, from withholding adequate funding to ill-conceived testing programs.

    It seems to me that too many people are going along with this right-wing project because of parochial concerns: “I want my way or I won’t support anything the School Board proposes!”

    Notice that this issue is being discussed almost entirely without mention of the most important element in the equation . . . the students.

  23. Testing Daze says:

    For one school in which I am familiar, more computers have been purchased, lots more, to accomodate state testing. They buy very expensive Apples. That makes NO sense…… but then follow the money.. who is making big commissions and who is getting greased? You can bet on it!
    So.. NO Bond Money from hardworking folks to go toward more corruption and graft! No Way

  24. NCog55 says:

    @Testing Daze: I’ve been involved in many school board bids over the past 15 years. I don’t follow what you say about buying the expensive apples. I’ve seen the school board buyers in action, and they are on the ball. The facilities department, maybe not so much. I’ve always found the buyers at the Oakland Park Blvd. office building to be extremely circumspect in their bidding process.

  25. Testing Daze says:

    NCoq55: For a laptop that is basically used 300 hours per year for an online test, there are many less expensive options than Apple.
    The buyers may get good prices on Apples…. I am sure they could get good prices on Mercedes School Buses also.

  26. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Buddy, you bet they would’ve wasted the billion dollars, and their lobbyist friends would be toasting the gullibility of the voters had it passed.

    Floridan: Talking about waste and corruption and refusing to give them more until they prove they’ve turned it around benefits students. Every cent of waste and every cent given to lobbyists and profiteers takes from the students. You sound like a system cheerleader. What “right wing project” are you referring to?

    Tallahassee threw money at the school systems in years past, and the only thing we got was “give us 3 more years and billions more” and we’ll improve student achievement.” That’s the definition of insanity, doing things the same way and expecting different results.

    Did anyone see the article by Karen Yi in today’s Sun-Sentinel about staff asking for a tax increase to balance the budget? And they haven’t yet prioritized or culled projects, even though the Facilities Task Force has been requesting this for years. They even told us the projects were all examined and there were no more to be removed because they were finished, or weren’t going to be done. The Board refused to pass the item, which was a good decision.

    Increasing taxes is the definition of chutzpah.

  27. Ha Ha Ha says:

    The schools are using Dell computers also.

    http://ramblewoodmid.browardschools.com/images/RamblewoodMid/SAC/2711_ramblewoodmiddle_minutes_122012.docx

    -The school has received 75 Dell computers on laptop carts from the district. The laptops are to be used for assessment.

    http://pompanobeachelem.browardschools.com/images/pompanobeach/Pelican_Press_Feb_March.pdf

    Our 5th graders have been practicing on the Dell computers in order to take the FCAT Math test on the computer this year rather than using paper and pencil.

  28. Tech on the cheap says:

    I watch or attend school board meetings frequently. The last time I saw the school board approve the purchase of technology was for 4000 Lenovo laptops at $325 each. I think that is the fiscally responsible way to go and I nice change from the Bob Park’s years.

    http://eagenda3.broward.k12.fl.us/cgi-bin/WebObjects/eAgenda.woa/wo/2.0.7.1.3.0.1.7.3.9.1.1.3.1.0.0.0.0

    Mac and Dells are significantly higher in price and haven’t been purchased by the district in years.

  29. Tax payer says:

    Schools, our children need better education. I don’t mind paying taxes if they are well spent. If someone else other than school board staff is going to manage the money (like a consultant), then I’m all for it. It is worse if we don’t do anything.

  30. Tax payer says:

    I don’t mind paying more taxes for the betterment of our school children, they are our future. I want to see tough, a professional management company managing the bond program, not the school district staff.

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