Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Seething White-Hot Rage

Since I moved to the Gambino Family's turf School District 196 in 1999, there have been four tax levy referenda, three of which passed. Of the three that did pass, two were in off year elections - one of those, a bond authorization, was in June. The other one that passed came on the heels of an extortion tactic by the school board that cut back on bussing. About a week later, we discovered that the district had a whole lot more money than they were letting on (as fellow ISD 196 victim Kevie notes here).

The strategy that the district has employed since that first, failed referendum in 2000 is obvious: slip the levy referenda onto the ballot in low-turnout election cycles (i.e. odd numbered years where there are no elections for federal offices), where the politically apathetic don't go out the polls, so that the ratio of district employees and teachers' union bobos voting outstrips that of the populace at large who would be picking up the lion's share of the tab.

Don't believe me?

Take a look at this:

More than 18,100 of the district's 86,902 registered voters cast ballots, and officials were satisfied with the 21 percent turnout.

No shit they were satisfied with the low turnout: they got what they wanted.

21% turned out to vote. Pathetic. But just how the powers that be in 196 like it. The district employs 4000 people, 2,100 of which are teachers. Do you think that may have played a role in the passage of the three levies, two of which passed by a margin of 3200 or less?

Could be.

These referenda have become thinly disguised railroad jobs. Even more disgusting is that the district apparently didn't need the money:

Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan has almost $30 million in reserves, but the balance is dropping. Over the past two years, the district sliced $11.5 million from the budget, eliminating 53 teachers and reducing other costs.

They sliced $11.5 million from the budget so they'd have a pretense to extort more money from the taxpayers. Oh and they cut 53 teachers? Out of over 2,100? Yeouch! That had to hurt.

Oh how I hate them.

Closed circuit to state legislators (I know there are a couple of you or your staff who read KAR): If you're not going to pass a school voucher program in some form thereby forcing me and people like me who choose to send their children to private schools - somewhat mitigating the burden on the "underfunded" public schools - to pay for both my children's education and someone else's, could you at least make one little change to the school levy referendum law? I'll even write it for you, so all you have to do is put in some conforming amendments and introduce the bill.

Here goes:

Minnesota Statutes Section 126C.17, subd. 11 is amended to read:

Subd. 11. Referendum date. (a) Except for a referendum held under paragraph (b), any referendum under this section held on a day other than the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November IN AN EVEN NUMBERED YEAR, must be conducted by mail in accordance with section 204B.46. Notwithstanding subdivision 9, paragraph (b), to the contrary, in the case of a referendum conducted by mail under this paragraph, the notice required by subdivision 9, paragraph (b), must be prepared and delivered by first-class mail at least 20 days before the referendum. NOTWITHSTANDING THE FOREGOING, ANY SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER WHO SUPPORTS AN INCREASE IN THE PROPERTY TAX LEVY WHEN THE SCHOOL DISTRICT IN WHICH THAT BOARD MEMBER SITS HAS MORE THAN $10 MILLION IN RESERVE, SHALL BE LOCKED IN A SMALL ROOM AND BE FORCED TO LISTEN TO A CONTINUOUS LOOP OF THE STARLAND VOCAL BAND'S GREATEST HITS AND SHALL NOT BE ALLOWED TO EAT ANYTHING OTHER THAN SPINACH GRATIN FOR A PERIOD OF NO LESS THAN TWO YEARS.

You don't have to include that later amendment, but the former is non-negotiable.

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