By Alan Marchione
A few years ago, I wrote an article discussing what I called “Kitchen Table Economics.” It’s the idea that in the course of balancing a budget, families sit down together at their kitchen table and balance their expenses with respect to incoming funds. We should expect our City and the MUSD to do the same, but I don’t feel the MUSD is practicing this most basic fundamental of personal finance with taxpayer funds. With regard to Proposition 437, I see red flags. I’ll explain further.
The largest component of Prop 437 is the construction of a new high school for the district, which, on its own, would be a cumbersome request of the taxpayer. However, where the problem lies, is what’s to be done with the remainder of the $113 million in principle and interest.
The first red flag is the request to use funds for the “repair and replacement of systems and infrastructure like HVAC, roofing and weatherization of aging buildings and facilities.” This request sends the message MUSD has failed to proactively budget for operations and maintenance of its existing facilities. There’s no contingency? There’s no reserve fund to anticipate eventual maintenance and repairs of existing assets? Even HOAs are required to maintain reserve funds for just this purpose.
Let’s get this straight, for the taxpayer: The MUSD wants you to approve a bond for $113 million, over a period of 28 years, in part for operation and maintenance of existing facilities, all while requesting funds to build more facilities, without providing a budgetary roadmap for similar operation and maintenance expenses in the future, whereas the items being purchased with bond funds won’t last the life of the bond. Where’s the common sense in that?
A second red flag of the bond request is “facility enhancements to increase security and promote safety.” Once again, taxpayers would be paying interest on items with a life expectancy less than the 28 years they’ll be paying on them – all while providing no roadmap for operation and maintenance. If security technology is included, then I would ask what the life expectancy is of such items when compared to the pace at which technology is moving? As a reference, how long before your current cell phone is considered “old school?”
It’s extremely unwise to bond maintenance and operations. The MUSD should not be given bond funds to build new capital assets if they can’t provide the taxpayer with a roadmap in their budget allocating for operations and maintenance of the new facility, or even their existing facilities. This entire program is robbing Peter to pay Paul on steroids and is a huge red flag.
There are those in the community that’ll approve any measure that contain “school” and “tax” in the same sentence, and there are those who will vote no on any measure that contains the word “tax” in any sentence. Just because taxpayers ask questions on why taxes need to be increased does not mean they don’t care about children and/or teachers.
Questions are good, and spawn effective debate.
Taxpayer money is not monopoly money, and we need to hold public entities accountable on how taxpayer funds are spent. The position towards the expenditure of taxpayer funds should not be to tax and spend when it’s wanted, but that of a zero-based budgeting ideology that explains and justifies why taxpayer funds are needed and/or if they are being properly managed – before ever asking for more.
Join me in voting No on Prop 437’s Red Flags.
Alan Marchione is a resident of Maricopa.