Letter to the Editor: Bond 'Fluff' Not Prudent During Difficult Financial Times
Brighton resident Brenda Goebbel expresses concern over Brighton Area Schools' management and spending of bond money.
Over a year ago our Brighton School Board was putting together a bond to present before voters in May 2012. The bond was seen as necessary to address the critical infrastructure and technology needs of the district.
I wish I had been present to witness the political posturing and scheming to ensure the bonds passage. Wasn’t that the reason the district spent the money to hold the special election in May rather than add it to the November ballot which would have ensured a greater voter turnout? How many frivolous items were added to the bond to garner a particular group’s vote? I feel that’s why the new HS football field, pool and fitness center, as well as the new Scranton football field, with all its amenities, were added to the bond.
But it just doesn’t make sense to be including these million dollar expenditures in light of our district’s budget woes and declining enrollment. Despite the request by several people, the board has yet to provide a “needs assessment study”. Is there really a “need” especially considering the new sports complex that has been approved and will be built on Whitmore Lake Road. It doesn’t make sense to saddle Brighton taxpayers with 30 years of debt for such unnecessary luxuries when the district is experiencing enrollment decline and financial problems.
Yes, the bond was approved by a small percentage of Brighton voters, but just because the monies are there, doesn’t mean every penny must be spent. It is within the school board’s power to apply these monies; over a million dollars just for the Scranton field, to pay down the bond debt. If there were a $17 million surplus resulting from nixing frivolous projects being considered by the Brighton School Board, many of which were not included in the bond and voted on by the public, our bond debt would amount to a savings of approximately $909. per household. Prudence is called for and expected of our elected officials.
To be sure, there are two pots of money under the control of the school board, the 88 million dollar bond pot which voters support spending on “critical infrastructure and technology” needs, and the general fund pot from which salaries, texts, operational and maintenance monies draw. It’s the general fund that is in deficit requiring the state monitoring of the district’s budget. The Brighton School District’s 7 million dollar (general fund) deficit was discussed at the January 28 Brighton School Board meeting.
A suggestion was made to privatize maintenance and secretarial services or possibly staff media centers with paraprofessionals instead of media specialists. The board also solicited input from the public about suggestions for cutting expenditures and generating revenue. I question why the board is entertaining the idea of cutting continuity, service, and professional expertise while at the same time contemplating the commitment to new and frivolous expenditures at the high school and Scranton Middle School.
Amenities such the proposed Scranton field new stadium lighting, P.A. sound system, building new outdoor restrooms, tennis courts, etc., will require monies for operation and maintenance that will be taken from the same general fund as the salaries of secretaries, maintenance staff and media specialists. The operation and maintenance of this “fluff” will become a permanent draw from our general fund FOREVER. And don’t forget, these proposed expenditures listed above were not part of the bond voted on by the public. What started out as a proposal to garner a group’s vote, the sports enthusiasts among us, is becoming a pie-in-the-sky mega stadium at a middle school that doesn’t even have a football team.
Might I suggest the Brighton public contact the board or attend the Monday meetings (2/25 is the next meeting) to check out how our bond money is to be spent. We need to insist our elected officials show prudence and fiscal responsibility. School tax and bond monies should be used for programs and staff that directly benefit ALL our students.
Brighton School Board Member emails: Williamanderson@comcast.net; Minertb@brightonk12.com; KrauseJ@brightonk12.com; Conelyrental@sbcglobal.net; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Nfiani@live.com