Fmr Sch Board Member: Vote “No” On New School Tax Hike

 

 

BY KEVIN TYNAN

 

 

 

 

 

The Broward County School Board wants yet another new tax. 

Board members want voters to approve a new tax increase for schools later this year.

It reminds me of the famous quote: Those that do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  

Broward County taxpayers need to remember the history of fiscal mismanagement by the School Board when considering the Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) attempt to place on the Broward County Primary Election Ballot for the August 23, 2022, election yet another new tax increase for all of us to pay to cure their inability to spend wisely. 

The BCPS desires to increase the tax from the previous ½ mill to a full 1 mill to do the very same things they claimed that the original ½ millage tax passed in 2018 was to be used for, including:

  1. Recruiting high quality teachers and staff.
  2. Providing additional school security and safety staff.
  3. Enhancing essential programs such as mental health services. 

The funding provided through the State of Florida, Federal Government, and existing local taxes should be more than ample to provide for ALL of the needs of the BCPS if it were properly organized, managed, and operated. 

 

No Lack Of Money

 

According to US News & World Report (2022), currently, BCPS spends $9,541 per student per annum, with 50.3% coming from local taxes and assessments, 38.4% from the State of Florida, and 11.3% disseminated by the Federal Government. This equates to a total revenue of $2,797,010,000 per year for BCPS to educate 269,172 students, amounting to a total revenue of $10,263 per student- slightly above the aforementioned cost to educate each student currently enrolled. The total expenditures of BCPS are $2,568,229,000 meaning that BCPS should have a total surplus of $228,781,000 annually. The issue the BCPS faces is NOT lack of funding. It is fiscal mismanagement. 

Since 2018, enrollment in the BCPS system has declined, test scores have decreased- and test score proficiency levels continue to decrease as the age and grade level of students increases, and what, if anything, was done in an effort to address the mental health issues stemming from, or exacerbated by, the COVID-19 Pandemic that closed school facilities and sent all student home to learn in a foreign and sometimes inaccessible distance learning infrastructure for which students and teachers received little to no preparation or training? During that time, anecdotal evidence suggests that students with special needs and accommodations required by law were either underserved or experienced no effort on the part of BCPS to meet the student’s legally required accommodations.

 

School Board’s Bungled Bonds 

 

In addition to the ½ mill tax assessed in 2018, the BCPS passed the now infamous $800M SMART Bond in 2014 to revitalize the infrastructure of BCPS facilities and school sites. 

To date, a small fraction of the originally listed projects have begun, and the projected total cost of all projects listed on the original SMART Bond plan are projected at close to double the original $800M. The issues with the SMART Bond are well documented through local and State media, and can only be attributed to incompetence, cronyism in hiring practices, and possibly corruption and graft which may or may not be substantiated through ongoing investigations by the Grand Jury convened by the Florida Supreme Court to root out these issues in all school districts throughout the State of Florida. 

As is thoroughly documented in the mainstream media, BCPS has a long and tragic record of elected officials and School Board Members being accused of, and in some cases convicted of, graft and corruption. 

The Grand Jury convened in 2011 made the two following statements that underscore the severity of the mismanagement and dishonest practices that result in a District as poorly operated as BCPS:

 

The evidence we have been presented concerning the malfeasance,       misfeasance, and nonfeasance of the Broward County School Board and of the senior management of the Broward County School District, and of the gross mismanagement and apparent ineptitude of so many individuals at so many levels is so overwhelming that we cannot imagine any level of incompetence that would explain what we have seen.

 

Please pay particular attention to the end of the statement above. If incompetence cannot explain the failures, aside from corruption, what could it be?

 

But for the Constitutional mandate that requires an elected school board for each District, our first and foremost recommendation would have been to abolish the Broward County School Board altogether. 

 

As visceral a reaction each of the statements above elicits, perhaps the most prescient statement in the 2011 Grand Jury Report is: 

 

Bad habits and corrupt practices often return when the light of inquiry is turned off.

 

In the fall of 2008, I was appointed to the School Board to replace a school board member who was criminally charged and convicted of accepting a bribe.  In 2010, a second school board member was charged and convicted for a conflict of interest related to a contractor who was doing business with the School Board.  

In more recent times, the former Broward County Superintendent of Schools was arrested and indicted for perjury. Along with the Superintendent, the then School Board Attorney was arrested and indicted for unlawful disclosure related to Grand Jury Proceedings. Both cases were related to yet another high-level School District Employee, the former Chief Information Officer, who had already been arrested for rigging the process of awarding “piggyback purchase contracts”. 

As recently as December of 2021, a sitting Broward County School Board Member was accused of potentially steering contracts towards a vendor who allowed her to visit and stay at his $1M beach house multiple times. Along with this School Board Member, Broward County Public Schools Director of Student Activities and Athletics was also accused of ethical breaches related to the same vendor. 

It should also be noted that the vendor in question, has donated the maximum allowable dollar amounts to all sitting School Board Member’s during each of their respective campaigns.

 

Oppose New Taxes

 

In summary, Broward County voters should strongly oppose the inclusion of any additional millage for the Broward County Public Schools on the 2022 Ballot. 

As demonstrated by the evidence presented, the BCPS System has ample funding to run the school district in exemplary fashion and to provide a high-quality public education to every student enrolled. What is lacking in the BCPS system is acumen, professionalism, ethics, and leadership on the part of elected officials. Sadly, there is no amount of money that can be applied to those issues that will successfully mitigate them. 

Further, there is a fractured trust that exists between the BCPS Leadership and the public they are required to serve. Broward County residents, like the rest of the Country, are overburdened by inflation, increased taxation, wage stagnation, and the increased cost of required goods like food and fuel. 

It is an insult and a travesty to allow the Broward County Public Schools to again ask the taxpayers to dig deep into their pockets, while the BCPS system has demonstrated no ability to appropriately use the funds they already have to properly educate the youth of Broward County and to maintain the crumbling infrastructure of the BCPS facilities. The inclusion of the additional millage earmarked for the Broward County Public Schools should be denied addition to the 2022 Broward County Official Election Ballot.

*****

Kevin Tynan is a veteran Broward-based lawyer with expertise in ethics and Florida government law.  He was as staff counsel for the Florida Bar from 1988 to 2000, managing disciplinary proceedings involving ethics issues. He was appointed to the Broward School Board by Gov. Charlie Crist, serving 2008-2010. He was also was a commissioners of the South Broward Hospital District, the governing board of the public Memorial Healthcare System. 



11 Responses to “Fmr Sch Board Member: Vote “No” On New School Tax Hike”

  1. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Outstanding! Thanks, Kevin, for speaking truth to corrupt power.

  2. Mr. Interesting says:

    He is right. A current school board member also wrote the same thing in the Sun-Sentinel. https://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/commentary/fl-op-com-broward-schools-tax-increase-20220503-7f3ydtghsrealp5j57n3isbsdu-story.html

  3. anonymous says:

    Once again the School Board is hiding behind teachers to get this tax passed. they promise it will go towards teachers pay increases. They will end up not paying the teachers a dime.

  4. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    #3 is right.We gave them over 800 million dollars and what do they have to show for it,what they did w/ the money- not much.Vote NO!!.They have bleed the taxpayer enough.

  5. James S says:

    This is an interesting and well written summary of the situation at the current Broward County School system. I am not even sure how something like this gets turned around and gets back on the right track. The figure of $10,263 per student is astonishing. I don’t know if this can be done, but maybe we should just give parents the money directly and they can find a private school that is much better than the public school.

  6. Tony Young says:

    The answer of the Broward School Board is always we don’t have enough money. The answer is not more money. It is smarter spending.

  7. Holy Moly says:

    Thousands of students now go to charter schools.They apparently hire and pay their own teachers That should have saved them some money. Instead they are again want more taxes. No more!
    Inflation is hurting every taxpayer in the United States. People can’t afford more.

  8. Very tired tax payer says:

    Its the same old democrat machine at work! Fire the entire board. It must be really nice to have 2 huge pensions coming into a family…an 1 member is a city commissioner from a certain Florida City….

  9. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    #7.That is the key here.Inflation,higher prices for everything but yet the School Board wants more money.I wouldn’t mind if the last time the taxpayers gave them over 800 million dollars.Again I wouldn’t mind if they had something to show us what they did w/ the $.The answer ,very little.That is concerning.Although,this new Super appears to be a lovely woman,it’s just not fiscally responsible to give her anymore $.Vote no.Enough is enough.

  10. Do The Right Thing says:

    #2 is not a current school board member. He is a current county commissioner who had to weigh in when it came to the county for a vote. He was the only one to vote no since it raises taxes instead of keeping it the same. Shame on the School Board Members once again!

  11. Floridan says:

    RE: #7 Students enrolled in a charter school are funded the same as students enrolled in other public schools in the school district. Federal, state, local, discretionary lottery and discretionary millage levy funds are allocated according to the same funding formula as funds allocated to other public schools.

    Citations: Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1002.33