I need to tread lightly as I am a school board employee. But I must speak up – as I have done before – regarding a Brevard Public Schools potential proposed half-penny sales tax.
a similar measure was defeated 52-48% in November 2012, BPS is back – mainly because
the problems have not gone away.
They have a
deficit in their capital funds and have been using operational funds to band-aid
problems. They have HVAC units that are literally
pieced together with duct tape. They
have school buses that high school seniors rode on when they started
But, at the same time, they
have serious perception problems and they are, frankly, political peons.
First – the perceptions. I took a look at my property tax bill the
other day. Using some rounding,
approximately 70% of my school taxes go to Tallahassee (of which I assume some
comes back). About 7% goes to local
general operating funds. About 23% goes to capital expenditures.
bites…I am already taxed more on school capital expenditures than I am taxed
for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Department.
And now they want more. And their
detailed charts and graphs do not fix the perception that they already get
enough of my money…maybe too much.
Next – the
politics. Last go round, they made a political
decision to divulge a cut list of people and programs that would go away if the
sales tax vote fell short. However, they
didn’t divulge the school closure list. They
said they didn’t want to spark a parochial battle of school v. school. And, of course, that eventually happened
anyway. And it was ugly.
But, in the
end, the sky has not fallen. The
students from closed schools have settled in elsewhere, secondary teachers are
figuring out how to do more work with less time like elementary teachers have
always done, some busing was eliminated, some programs ended.
So what does
BPS need to do to get this tax passed?
Deal with perceptions and change their politics.
perceptions. We already know that they
are using some funds from the operating budget to prop up the capital
budget. So they need to make a grand
statement that they are spending the operating budget wisely so they can
justify the transfer and win trust.
that grand statement be – you ask? BPS
needs to make a major overhaul in their organizational chart to be more
efficient in management and delivery of programs. If I were Superintendent Dr. Brian Binggeli,
I would call in executives from Harris Corporation, Health-First, and some
other major players and ask them to develop a new structure that is leaner and
even have to have a lot of cost savings.
It just has to show the reluctant voter that BPS is serious about
streamlining government bureaucracy. I
guarantee a move like this would sway some moderate hearts and minds.
politics. They need three actions in
Number one –
they need to put out another cut list – and this time they need to name the
schools that will close and how it will impact other schools. Parochialistic fights be damned. If they really want this money, it is time to
Number two –
Binggeli needs to lighten his tone and change his tune. His doom-and-gloom, almost threatening
attitude does not ring true for his target voter – middle-aged retired folks
who may not have kids in school. They are already suspect of the politics of intimidation
by others that always say kids and old people will starve and cops and
firefighters won’t show up. As well, air
conditioners and buses are not sexy.
Stop talking about them.
– they need to run this like a political campaign because that is what it
is. They should take out advertising and
have yard signs. Maybe have a pithy
saying or two. And they need someone
other than themselves to run this campaign.
an idea…How about they give a politically-knowledgeable teacher a
leave-of-absence in 2014, a stipend and modest budget and let him run the
campaign for them…wonder who that could be?