In a time when the Garden Valley School District is going to need all the support it can get from its patrons if it wants to get the supplemental levy passed, it has looked like special interest groups might sit down and share the pipe for a short while.
A school patron has some misgivings, and appearing to distain the illusory truce (a fancy of mine?), recently sent out an e-mail to other Garden Valley School patrons. In an attempt to "set the facts straight", Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michael Tomlin, sent to patrons an e-mail with answers to the patron's assertions. The following is the unedited letter of concerns by the patron (sans signature), with unedited responses by Mike Tomlin (sans identity of patron).
Tomlin: Garden Valley School District patron ( ) sent the following email (in blue) to multiple recipients. While (he) has every right to his opinion, his assertions are in many cases factually flawed. It is important that voters in the valley accurately understand the issues, school finance law, budgeting, and the role of the school board and administration in order to make informed decisions on the upcoming Supplemental Levy vote. I have corrected (his ) incorrect statements, in red, following his statements.
Statements in blue by ( ):
By taking away some of the funding from the school district the state government has given more control to the people at the local level. Now that the school district has to rely on direct support from the community my suggestion is that the School Board and the District Administration better start showing a lot more respect to the community, teachers, parents and of course the Kids. My suggestion to community members is to not let this opportunity pass them by. Make the Board and Administration responsible for their past, present and future actions. I have yet to see true transparency by the administration and therefore I will be voting “No” on this Levy.
[Mr. ( ) has not requested any documents, budget or otherwise to verify transparency. He has attended multiple meetings and has had every opportunity to view and analyze every budget document that exists. The Board of Trustees held multiple public budget meetings and hearings in 2009, and in 2010, debating and preparing its adopted budgets. Per law, the school district is audited and just this year underwent a federal audit. The district is exceedingly transparent, and proper and accurate in its financial operation.]
Yes, I am very concerned about our children’s education and the welfare of our teachers, but the core classes will not be affected. They will not go below 19 ½ teachers. [That is factually untrue. There is a downward spiral effect of program cuts. As non-required classes and programs are reduced, the population shifts to schools and districts that provide them, which further erodes the funding base of the schools and our community. There is no way Mr. ( ) nor anyone else can assure the district that we will have 19.5 teachers next year (or any other number) prior to the legislature deciding on the new laws under consideration and setting our revenue. It is irresponsible to make such a statement.]
And, sports and other extra curricular activities can and should be funded more directly by the community through direct donations and organizations like the PTO/Booster Club. They do fundraising specifically for funds for the teachers and students use and not for the administration's overview. Sometimes you have to fall flat on your face before you finally make the decision for a better tomorrow. We have to look beyond next year and the next two years. We have to look at the long term future of this community.
The School District is very top heavy and has not been financially responsible the last couple years. [The Garden Valley School District is an award-winning district in academics, sports, and is recently reaccredited due to its excellence. This includes financial management, as noted in our audits, and the fact that we were able to delay for two years the drastic cuts made by many districts. It is a credit to those superintendents and boards who served before, and to the recent board(s) and its fiscal responsibility.] They have spent the School Districts savings and did not respond to cuts from the state the last two years. [Mr. ( ) is factually incorrect. The District responded to state cuts by reducing expenditures, freezing salaries, reducing overhead staff, cutting and capping health care benefits for employees, cutting athletic travel and costs, and imposing activity fees. The District intentionally and strategically used its savings to keep teachers employed, and to keep programs sound.]
If this were a private company they would not be able to ask Tax Payers for more money (and would be laying people off or closing their doors in response to the lower income.) That is just how it is.
The state, through funding cuts, has given us, The People, the power to say enough is enough. Get your message out and demand action. We can always vote on a Levy in the fall again. But they have to know that there must be a change [The people always have the power in our Republic. School district administration spends the monies received per approved budgets the school board adopts in open session following community hearings. It is a great process. However, as Mr. ( ) proposes voting on the levy in the fall – we must by law enter into contracts with teachers well before that. It is an unsound proposal that we can wait until November to determine a budget, and then hire back the teachers released in May. There would be no classes for them to teach.]
By passing this levy we give the administration the power to decide where the money is spent [This is factually false. The Board of Trustees will set and approve a budget for the next fiscal year. It will involve open and public community hearings and multiple readings and printings. It is the job of the administration to properly account for and spend the budget of the district – Neither the superintendent nor the Business Manager have the power to decide where any significant amounts of money is spent.] and if they are not listening to the community, who knows where that money will really go [That money will go exactly where the Board of Trustees directs that it go in their adopted budget]. It's not like the funding we get from the state where it's destination is designated by the state and the administration has no or little say. [Mr. ( ) is again factually incorrect on his assertion. We have quite a bit of discretion or "say" in the monies that come from the State. We will have far less discretion with the levy funds as the Board will have dictated exactly and not generally what their use will be.]
If you do not agree with this or want to correct something I said please do so. Right now I cannot support the Levy. I tried to get on board with pushing the Levy through but I can't get myself to believe it is the right thing to do at this point. I would love to here some of your thoughts. If you want to pass this on please do so, I have nothing to hide.
Again, Mr. ( ) has every right to his opinions, but misleading and non-factual assertions must be answered. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding the above.
Dr. Michael Tomlin
Garden Valley School District
P.O. Box 710
1053 Banks Lowman Road
Garden Valley, ID 83622