Archive for Friday, March 29, 2013

School district’s mailing about bond issue raises eyebrows

March 29, 2013


The Lawrence school district this week mailed out a 16-page flier explaining details of a bond issue that will be decided in Tuesday's elections.

And although district officials say it was an informational flier meant to inform voters about the proposal, some voters who received it say it looked more like taxpayer-funded political advertising.

"Although technically it's for information only, it's slanted pretty strongly (toward) 'vote yes,' and I think it's kind of sad that they send that out at the last minute with my tax dollars," said Kent Shrack, who received one of the fliers.

Shrack said he supports public schools but feels the proposed $92.5 million bond bond issue is too expensive. He also said he objects to the district calling it a "no tax increase bond issue."

"Without the bond issue, our taxes would go down," he said.

The flier contained much of the same information as the most recent school district newsletter that was inserted in the Sunday edition of the Journal-World on March 24.

Julie Boyle, communications director for the district, said the flier was only informational and did not advocate a political position. She also said it was similar to informational fliers that other school districts have sent to their voters regarding bond proposals.

"It is the district's responsibility to inform voters about the school bond election and how the school board has designated bond funds to be spent," Boyle said.

Boyle said the flier was mailed to 9,442 registered voters in the school district. She said it cost the district $2,112 to print in-house, which was charged to the district's communications account, and another $2,218.87 for mailing, which was charged to postage account.


Julie Jacob 5 years, 1 month ago

Someone needs to check that math. That is 46 cents each, including postage. How can you mail a 16 page flier for 24 cents?

ljwhirled 5 years, 1 month ago

There are a LOT more registered voters in the school district.

It looks like the mailing was only sent to voters who voted in the primary and in the last city wide election, not voters who voted in the last general election.

If the mailer was for information only, why mail it only to voters who voted in city wide elections and not in general elections.

I don't really care. I am going to vote "yes", but if you are mailing out a promotional mailer, go ahead and call a spade a spade.

Catalano 5 years, 1 month ago

Okay, I counted one set of eyebrows.

That said, " 'It is the district's responsibility to inform voters about the school bond election and how the school board has designated bond funds to be spent,' Boyle said."

So why wasn't anyone from the school DISTRICT part of the Town Hall Q&A the other night?

GMom05 5 years, 1 month ago

The whole town hall meeting was a joke anyway. Look at who was invited and who wasn't. Waste of time.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

Kent Schrack is complaining because he is against it.

Developed the flier in house and distributed for minimum cost = fiscally responsible.

It is smart to put a lot facts in the hands of the voters. The LJW cannot get the job done. No news agency can get the job done. Town Hall meetings do not last long enough to get the job done.

"Without the bond issue our taxes will go down" - Maybe ..... maybe not is my view. Certainly not very much money will be saved. The taxpayers USD 497 properties cannot be neglected any longer. The district needs to bring on all of the improvements.

If the bond is defeated there will need to be a plan B. Maybe increase the mil levy and move forward. The increase will need to be in place for a relatively short period of time but could get the job done. USD 497 cannot afford another 10-15 years of negligence = makes zero sense.

I applaud the USD BOE 497 for offering up plenty of information to the voters.

Taxpayers still are not sure what their getting for their money regrading the Field House/Rec Center. Very sloppy indeed.

Thank you USD 497 BOE for the going the extra mile.

Orwell 5 years, 1 month ago

Or maybe he is being straightforward about a legitimate concern. It's reasonable to ascribe motives, say, to a state administration whose actions always favor only the rich; it's something else altogether to claim to know the mind of an individual with whom you disagree on a single specific point.

I agree that more accurate information is a good thing, whatever the source. The problem here is that the school district has chosen its information far too selectively to claim the mantle of neutrality about this mailer. Methinks the district protesteth too much.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

City Hall is the institution that needs to be reined in..........

Mike Edson 5 years, 1 month ago

We need to know what we are voting for. I was glad to receive the mailing.

melott 5 years, 1 month ago

Sure, we're all in favor of using tax dollars to mail out propoganda to influence an election toward spending more tax dollars on football fields and flat screen TVs in the lunch room. Don't anyone pretend the money won't be diverted, as it has been in the past.

George_Braziller 5 years, 1 month ago

I'm a registered voter in the district but I didn't receive one.

"Boyle said the flier was mailed to 9,442 registered voters in the school district."

Gail Grant 5 years, 1 month ago

I'm not against this bond. But my two kids brought each one of these flyers, by the county page there are 11,000 students in the school district, and if each got one, then it is way more than the said amount.

Bigdog66046 5 years, 1 month ago

as long as the bond has language like "make all other necessary and related improvements in the District" i will be 100% NO vote. And anyone who votes yes, when they spend it on things other than "promised" remember you are the ones who keep giving them the cash to do it again and again. Make them come up with a real bond and make it binding to only do what they put in writing. No business would loan someone 92+ million and say do what ever you want, we don't really need to know what your doing with it.and us the taxpayer shouldn't ether!!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 1 month ago

Smart Choices by USD 497 BOE

For 15 -20 years USD 497 taxpayers have been wanting to eliminate portable classrooms and make necessary additions to address issues of necessary technology,new teaching concepts and simply maintain property that belongs to taxpayers.

Thus far I like what improvements are being offered. A great public education system is key to new economic growth which has been known for decades. A great public education system is far more important than any retail center or strip mall.

Taxpayer properties have been neglected for 15 years. It’s time to bring our buildings up to date thus making excellent use of existing resources. Introducing an improved learning environment will benefit students and teaching staff.

This project is being accomplished WITHOUT raising taxes. This bond issue is designed whereby the dollars cannot be diverted from the project. I have directed plenty of questions to USD 497 BOE members and Dr. Doll face to face.

I believe these candidates will keep a watchful eye over the money and our taxpayer owned properties from this day forward.

Vanessa Sanburn - current School Board President

Robert Byers - current BOE member

Adina Morse -

kujayhawk7476 5 years, 1 month ago

The point is, Mr. Kent Shrack, are you for schools or against schools? Do you support education in Lawrence and Kansas or do you side with the right-wing whackos running Kansas state government, who are ruining education, health services and women's rights?

Orwell 5 years, 1 month ago

Let's see… who was it who said "You're either with us or you're against us?"

For my part, I support schools and will probably vote for the bond, but I think Kent Shrack (who surely is not alone in his concerns) and everyone should be encouraged to ask legitimate questions about the bond issue and school district advocacy. The claim that this flyer is NOT advocacy just doesn't pass the smell test.

Alpenglow 5 years, 1 month ago

One person whines and complains about a flyer and it becomes news? WHY?????

ReadingSports 5 years, 1 month ago

I used to comment quite a bit on this site. I haven't in a long time.
I have to agree that this use of taxpayer funds smells bad. I was initially for this bond issue, but I have children in the district. The district has spent a lot of the schools resources lobbying the parents to vote for the issue. A lot! I just got a (robo) phone call from Ms Boyd on this issue.
And I have to say that I know this district spends a lot of money on things that they should not. A lot! Enough that we as voters and taxpayers should probably look more closely at what they do spend money on. As a parent in the district I say that it will surprise you. Maybe even disgust you.

Vote against this bond issue. And demand accountability from the board and the district.

Centerville 5 years, 1 month ago

A vote against inflicting more taxes on us is a vote against women's rghts? That one sends the fatuity meter into the red zone. Thanks for the laugh. I needed it after reading that some people automatically belive taxpayer-funded lobbying for more taxes.

jhawk1998 5 years, 1 month ago

Julie's financial summary fails to include all the staff costs and time that went into the development of the piece. Also what she fails to understand is that political mailers should not be paid for using education funds. When I received mine I was angered by the waste of my tax dollars and disposed of it immediately.

GMom05 5 years, 1 month ago

I agree that it makes sense to do this work while rates are low. What I disagree with is the extent of the bond. 92.5 million is a huge chunk. There should not be any new construction in order to increase capacity. Do the deferred maintenance, replace the portables, but do NOT add more classrooms and increase capacity when we already own three elementary schools that are not being used for their intended purpose. I have kids too, but I'll be voting NO. My message to the board is go back to the drawing board, rewrite a responsible bond and put it to a vote in another 60 days. Interest rates aren't going to change that much in 2 months. #Vote NO

Mark Currie 5 years, 1 month ago

I worked for the school district for a long time. You would not believe some of the waste I saw in my time there. I am not talking about waste by kids or teachers so much, but it existed too. Much of the waste I felt came from higher up. One semester they told me one of my classes wasn't "funded" It was a class where supplies were needed. To the tune of $100.00 to $150.00. I thought well, the kids come first, so I paid it out of my own pocket. I also know teachers who furnished reams of paper and other supplies out of pocket. The money was there for it, they just didn't want to cut loose with it. I am not going into detail about waste, but like I said, I felt it came from higher up. That said, I know many schools need improvements, etc. But think things over carefully before you commit. I'll probably wind up voting for it, but a part of me doesn't like the wording of how the money is to be spent. The year I "funded" the class I mentioned was the year we got the new stadium & sports complex. That kind of stung. Thanks, Didn't mean to offend anyone.

jonnyboy 5 years, 1 month ago

These comments remind me of the time I was standing in line to tour the White House and heard the staff refer to "us" as sheep and cattle in a fairly derogatory way.

Give me a BREAK! This was a TAX-FUNDED political mailing. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a buffoon. The powers that be know nothing will come of it.

The super's secretary told me that they let a VALUABLE staff person quite rather than give them a raise; "that we all rise together." That did it for me. I'll never vote for school funding again until I see real change in teacher quality and how the are compensated. A great teacher can teach in a shack. Until we hire great teachers, we're wasting our money.

P.S. I particularly love the person who says "one person whines.....becomes news" So we shouldn't question use of taxpayer money? Have you taken any history classes?????

KSManimal 5 years, 1 month ago

Naysayers, I assume you realize that ALL of a school district's funds come from I'm curious..... How is the school district is supposed to inform voters about the bond question WITHOUT spending any tax dollars?

We all know that if the district DID NOT try to get such information out, you would all complain that they weren't being "transparent" enough with you. Maybe you all just hate public education? Help me understand....

Kent_Shrack 5 years, 1 month ago

I just found out that my comments were in the on line paper and would like to take this time to explain my viewpoints. First, I am not against schools, teachers, or improvements. I come from a family that has stepped up and served on many school boards. My Great Grandfather, Grand Father, Dad, and brother have faithfully served on school boards. My Great Uncle was the supplier of all school books in my home town for 60 years, from 1886 to 1946.
I have been a Project Manager and Estimator in the construction for the last 38 years. I feel I have a great knowledge of construction cost, and have “some” common sense. I thought it best to address each of your comments. Merrill: I am complaining about the USD 497 16 page “flyer” because my tax dollars were used in what I feel was questionable and slanted reporting of facts. Yes, I am against a bond issue of 92.5m. I am not against funding schools. I am told this is the largest school bond issue in the history of Lawrence.
From another Merrill Post: I too am against portables. I also believe that maintenance should have been performed on many of the buildings. The nice mother that sat beside me last Tuesday said she would vote yes because the school her son is attending has a roof that is leaking. This is a maintenance item, that I feel should be paid out of the general fund, which I was told last Tuesday is setting at $36m. There is no excuse for having a leaking roof. I feel this is hardly a “Bond Issue” expense. kujayhawk7476: I am for schools. I will soon have five grand children in the Lawrence School System. I do support education within reason. I feel the 92.5 m cost, is unreasonable. As far as, siding with the “right-wing whackos”, I will leave that to your opinion.
Orwell: Your quote, “The claim that this flyer is NOT advocacy just doesn't pass the smell test”. That was my point. I feel it very slanted and find it highly unethical to have sent it out at the last minute. Alpenglow: I am not the only one that complained about the flyer

Kent_Shrack 5 years, 1 month ago

Reading Sports: I will be happy to share my knowledge of cost of construction on past projects. I will not share them here as I believe we can look forward and spend future funds wisely.
KRichards: “You will not see your taxes increase from their current point”. A great statement, IF, in the next 20 years, there is not another Bond Issue. Do you believe that to be true? jonnyboy: Although I would repeat your quotes, I don’t want to give kujayhawk fuel for the fire to label me one of the “wackos” (though he might be right) KSManimal: There are many ways the school districts receives funding. Growing up, my dad had to work with several Bond Issues. He worked diligently on the school board, played a large role in the bonds for the new Community College, and served many years on the hospital board. All Bond Issues were for large construction projects that were out of the ordinary and not day to day maintenance items. The day to day maintenance and simple up-grades were covered out of general funds. Please note that last Tuesday we were told there were $36m in these funds today.

I try not to debate this issue without facts. The statement that this bond issue will not raise our taxes may be true for the short term, but they will go up at the next bond issue.
It is my opinion that the amount for this Bond Issue is based upon the amount that can be passed off as “no tax increase”. Having input from a study, or asking what is on each schools wish list is much like asking a car salesman if he thinks I need a new car. I do agree, that many of the items on the list need to be addressed, and many on the list should be addressed from general funds. I appreciate our School Board for their efforts. I don’t agree with $92.5m. I can give many reasons why, and back them up with facts. I will not spend our tax dollars on trying to spin the issue. THANKS

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