Slogans vs. Solutions on Taxes

The school board voted on a $23.5 million financing plan at our last meeting.  The plan pays off some expensive variable-rate bonds and replaces them with cheaper, fixed-rate bonds. Not only will this make it easier to accurately budget costs, it will also save district taxpayers like you and me a minimum of $250,000 in interest payments to Wall Street over the next five years.  I’m happy to report that the plan passed by a vote of 7 to 2.

My two colleagues voting against the plan were Carol Allen and Chris Donatelli.  Both regularly invoke slogans about cutting taxes and holding down costs in our school board deliberations. When given this opportunity to save taxpayers a quarter million dollars or more, however, they said no.  To me, it was a concrete reminder of the difference between a focus on political talking points around taxes and actually rolling up your sleeves and finding practical solutions to a growing tax burden.

I’m proud to be part of a district always seeking cost reductions like this, reductions that save taxpayers money while at the same time don’t hurt the quality of our educational programs. And last Monday’s vote shows that those who talk the most about the problem of taxes are not always the ones who are doing the most to solve it.

The bonds and other financial instruments used by the school district are considerably more complicated than those used by most of us in our personal finances. Members of the board spent two meetings asking financial advisers many good questions to ensure we understand the plan and are getting the best deal possible.  If you would like to look at the details of the bond buybacks and purchases for yourself, as well as the calculations of estimated savings to taxpayers, check them out in Exhibit #1 of the last board meeting’s agenda.

If you’d like a simple and easy to understand introduction to the financial budgeting in our district, as well as a clear statement of my own approach to budget issues, I’ve written a 5-part series of posts to help.  I’ve also reached out to both Ms. Allen and Mr. Donatelli and invited them to share their point of view on the latest refinancing plan with the public.  I will add their viewpoint below if they decide to provide one.

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