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Taxpayers association deserves seat at the table

By DAVID COKER
Special to the Courier & Press

April 27, 2005

    I cannot understand how the Courier & Press can write an editorial (Monday) about the membership of the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp.'s efficiency study steering committee and never once mention including at least one member of the Vanderburgh County Taxpayers Association.

   Do we not have just as legitimate a claim to be a party to this committee as the teachers union and the Teamsters?
 

     Our members have spent hundreds of hours during the past two years, on a totally volunteer basis, poring over the annual school corporation budget, audit reports, bus-replacement schedules and tax-levy tables in an effort to make some sense of the financial mess that continues to surround this school corporation.


 

 
    We have requested financial document after document from the top management of the corporation and continue to find it very difficult to get specific information regarding certain activities. Our members remain gravely concerned about the shifting of funds among accounts - regardless of the legality of what the corporation is doing.  

    We continue to question the propriety and necessity of many approved spending projects.
 

     We challenge the corporation's recent assertion that it has cut more than $15 million from the annual budget and made reductions in staffing by more than 100. We simply do not see it.
      We continue to worry about the proposed $77 million in tax anticipation warrants being issued by this corporation for fiscal 2005, which are apparently required to pay the bills. The interest on these warrants will increase the financial liability of taxpayers by nearly $2 million in fiscal 2006, a fact that has never been reported or seriously discussed in this newspaper or by any of the other local media outlets.
 

     We still do not know what the long- term effects of the pending teachers contract will be on the local tax levy, although it is being widely reported that the future levy will be less than those of previous years.
 
     We have our doubts.
      
      Although at times our members seem adversarial at School Board meetings, the truth is that someone in this community should be minding the store. It is a settled fact that a majority of the membership on the School Board could not care less about the interests of the taxpayers in this community.
 

      A school corporation that spends more than $200 million a year and cannot realize more than 48 percent of the tenth-graders passing the ISTEP exam has some very serious fundamental problems that neither the Community Education Council nor the Mayor's Roundtable has even begun to address.
 

       To have School Board President William Asbury and School Superintendent Bart McCandless serve on this efficiency study steering committee will not in any way contribute to getting to the bottom of the problems of this corporation. It's like having two foxes guarding a dilapidated chicken coop.
 

      Redistricting of all the schools should be a no-brainer while student workstations throughout the primary, middle and high school buildings all over this county remain vacant and unused. Still, we simply had to build a $50 million vocational technical Taj Mahal on Lynch Road, creating even more inefficiency throughout the system.

     The corporation has yet to level with us as to precisely how it will pay the faculty for this facility. Perhaps more tax anticipation warrants?
    
       Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over and hoping for different results. If the school corporation and representatives of the power establishment of this community think they can continue this stupid little transparent charade at the expense of the taxpayers in this community, every dime spent on this efficiency study will be a dime wasted. Members of the taxpayers association have done the hard work and know what they are talking about.

       They, above all other groups in this community, have done the hard work and deserve a seat at the table.


David Scott Coker is president of the Vanderburgh County Taxpayers Association.