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Cd'A school levy: It's all about being accountable

by Dennis Hinrichsen
| November 19, 2010 8:00 PM

Phillip Freneau, Rules for Changing ... excerpt from Rule XI:

"It will be too quickly seen through by the owners and tillers of the soil that to tax them with one hand and pay back a part only with the other is a losing game on their side. From the power over manufactures more is to be hoped. It will not be so easily perceived that the premium bestowed may not be equal to the circuitous tax on consumption, which pays it. There are particular reasons, too, for pushing the experiment on this class of citizens."

Diminishing return in the face of contention, failed trust and suspicion have divided our community into the "Parent Has Children" strong voting block vs. all others. The captains of the respective teams give me a headache screaming their mantras: "It's for the children" and "I'm already taxed to death!" What troubles me most is the mismanagement and lack of foresight to conserve available funds against a "just gotta have it!" mentality.

This isn't just about the supplemental levy of $100 or $200 a year. The balance of Coeur d'Alene School District 271 funding comes out of your or my pocket as well. Free grants from Uncle Sam also come from our bank account. Most consumers of municipal and education service do not equate their demand for service directly to handing some bureaucrat your signed blank check.

We pay bureaucrats like Hazel Bauman and Mayor Sandi Bloem significant salaries to ensure that the funds, forcibly removed from our pocket, are spent wisely. Case in point:

In the winter of 2008-2009, a contract to pay over $1,000,000 for snow removal from school roofs was almost signed. The snow had been coming down for 12 days almost nonstop. On Jan. 2 it began to warm up with a steady rain. Roofs buckled; some collapsed. Merchants were advised to shovel or close their doors for safety's sake. Even the Department of Labor locked their doors at noon and pushed me out the door. Did SD271 NOT HAVE A MAINTENANCE CREW to blow snow off the roofs before snowload became a crisis issue?

In the current budget, reductions were made in the preventative maintenance category. Almost 30 percent of the budget is supported by the supplemental levy. These funds do not have government strings attached.

Much of the demand for services has been created by the rapid addition of new subdivisions. Lakes MS remodeling was placed on hold so funds from the levy we approved could be allocated to new schools. I raised the issue of Impact Fees with then-superintendent Harry Amend. I was told that impact fees couldn't be levied.

Idaho statute provides the means to protect existing property owners from the adverse effect of new developments. Unfortunately those fees are a political hot potato. It is more convenient to offend all property owners than to rile one's Good Ole Boy friends who got them elected. As Coeur d'Alene annexed and built out, all homeowners got the shaft.

We approach another severe winter with funds for preventative maintenance conveniently cut. Is there a plan to remove snow as it collects to prevent crisis mode decisions? The levy review was replete with the usual threat of diminishing supplies for the teachers and cuts in sports and music programs. It's not my intent to micromanage SD271 line by line to save a dime. I do expect and demand accountability or the immediate rolling of heads as failure surfaces.

If by neglect or procrastination I permitted the roof of a 46,000-square foot facility to fail, I would be out of a job and likely subject to a lawsuit.

Where is comparable oversight and accountability with SD271 administration?

Is the school board merely an appointed rubber stamp?

Dennis Hinrichsen is a Coeur d'Alene resident.

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