Thursday, March 2, 2017

A SUPERINTENDENT'S BEST FRIEND?

No, not the County Clerk lol - a tax increase, of course!  Next best? Malleable Board members.

Obviously taught Tax Raising 101 at Superintendent School, Scott School's new Superintendent Kevin Hub crafted a doozy. By gaming an assured Board tax vote loss from last August, Hub turned two NO votes into one School Board Chair and one Vice Chair, resulting in two YES votes on January 10. And by so doing avoided a sure loss at the November general election ballot box were a recall petition to have been successful back then, whereas he would stand a good chance of winning at a special called election in April. What's $80,000 of aging flooring to this guy to assure a win that will net him $4.1 million each and every year for perpetuity? Too bad Super School doesn't place the same emphasis on one's sincerity. Hub's letter to his Board honoring January as "School Board Month" was a verbatim copy (except for the Board members names) as was published prior in the January 18 edition of the Owen County News Herald by Owen County Schools Superintendent Robert Stafford.

Continuing the lack of vision legacy of Scott County School Boards of yore, by sidling up to Hub the 2017 Scott Board saddles the 2020 and beyond Boards with Hub's premature January 2017 11.5% tax increase. Emboldened after sweating for 45 days what they would do in the unlikely event of a voter recall (see the headline piece in the February 28 Georgetown News Graphic), only one thing now stands in the way of the 2017 Board delivering on the promises they made to sell Hub's tax increase  - basic MATH.

The 2017 Board promoted and justified his tax increase as addressing the current and future facility needs of the Scott County school district, some $206 million they claim to have in what they call "unmet facility needs". Rather, the bonding generated by the Board's 11.5% tax increase will do well to build its single taj mahal high school and at most one elementary school. And that is only if it is a small elementary school AND if the state allows equalization dollars of an additional $10 million. Both unlikely.

Although sold as a method to increase the district's bonding potential from its mysterious $60 million to $95 million (well short of the $206 million claimed needed), the tax increase now appears about TWO things - the tax increase itself with the annual $4.1 million and growing it will contribute each and every year to the district's out of control operating budget AND the construction of a "single" high school that will preserve the Scott Administrative State's (SAS) elusive athletic dynasty goal. PLAIN AND SIMPLE, and now no doubt about it, what with the fix seated. With ample bonding to have built a second high school without the delaying tax increase AND an opportunity to repair the divide between the Board and the community, nothing else explains the money grab.

The fact is that $60 million of current bonding potential, coupled with the savings from the repeal of prevailing wage could have built the second high school the district needed without delay, but could not build the "single" taj mahal high school demanded by the Scott Deep State (SDS) and the SAS. There simply is no other reason for the 2017 School Board to not acknowledge the community's deep and legitimate distrust of recent School Boards. Instead it squanders an opportunity to repair that relationship by forcing the tax increase. Don't they think we deserve to know how we got to the point of having $206 million of "unmet facility needs"?

Here's what to watch for -

     1 - a short lived quiet period for the now fat and happy district administration and SDS. Things will go well for them on cruise control with the additional $4.1 million a year the 11.5% tax increase adds to their current $60 million annual budget with which to throw at problems. The additional $4.1 million also effectively reduces by a few percentage points the current 87% that district salaries eat of the current $60 million annual operating budget. Not because of any effort to get those salaries under control mind you, but that those existing salaries will automatically become less of a percentage as the budget grows by the $4.1 million. Regardless, the district will continue its spending over $5 million each and every year more than the Kentucky Department of Education recommends they spend on salaries!

     2 - taxpayers to soon realize a "nickel" tax increase doesn't mean their tax bill only goes up 5 cents. This thanks to a Georgetown News Graphic that would never characterize the 11.5% tax increase as anything other than a "nickel" increase.

     3 - the total cost of the "new" taj mahal high school to consume most all of the bonding the tax increase will generate. Should the district be able to eek out a claimed needed 9th elementary school from the bonding, it will only be because of the state's recent and under acknowledged repeal of the oppressive "prevailing wage" and a possible $10 million State contribution of what it calls "equalization" dollars. You can forget a fourth middle school and an tenth elementary school. Those will require another tax increase and will be what saddles future School Boards - if they in fact are needed as claimed.

     4 - to not hear any mention should the state not contribute those "equalization" dollars.

     5 - as with all Scott school buildings, never to hear from the Board a final cost for the "new" high school or a final accounting each year of the additional and growing $4.1 million.

     6 - the other schools (a second elementary and a middle school) the Board claimed a desperate district need as justification for the 11.5% tax increase -  to be less and less mentioned. Already the GNG has dropped the second elementary from its report in today's paper. It is these needs that the 2020 and subsequent School Boards will discover will cause a revolt should they return to the taxpayers to bail them out yet again. Thanks a lot 2017 Board! Vision would have been to build an expandable second high school with the available bonding before approaching the community for the justifiable tax increase needed at that time. And one School Board member considers herself a "fiscal conservative". Yeah, right. Sorry, but actions speak louder than words Mrs. Duncan!

     7 - the 2018 Local Planning Committee appointed by the Superintendent to continue with a Ninth Grade School on its District Facility Plan, enabling the Board to claim a year later when the "new" high school nears completion that they, as prudent fiscal stewards of the taxpayer's dollars, now find it fiscally prudent for the district to remain a single high school district with a Ninth Grade School remaining. This despite the 2017 Board's claim of "EXPLODING" school population numbers used to coerce the 11.5% tax increase and the current District Facility Plan calling for the elimination of the Ninth Grade School.

     8 - Georgetown News Graphic Editor and Publisher Mike Scogin, whose wife is employed by the Scott County School Board, to continue his conflicts of interest and continue as the district's and the SDS's pawn.

     9 - no accountability or reasons for why Scott County Schools have not provided over the years for its student's facility needs ($206 million in unmet needs?) as even the poorest school districts in the state have been able.

    10 - the Scott Deep State's influence to grow.

    11 - the "new" high school opening as an unfinished facility (should it open on time at all)  in August of 2019. The Board will fall all over itself to assure all that "safety is of the utmost importance to the Board". Had the Board built the second high school that it could have and without the delay caused by the tax increase, GCHS would easily have opened as a completed facility even earlier.

12 - and lastly - a Charter High School!

So now we cede this noble battle and hence cede our public school system to the SDS and the SAS. For now. Now we turn our energies to House Bill 520 - Charter schools for KY. Although appearing stalled at the moment, Charter schools for KY are inevitable. We want to be ready when Charter is ready.

To that end, please consider joining our effort with a confidential email contact via schstoobig@gmail.com. There we will begin to assemble a confidential list of Charter supporters that with individual permission we will use to complement our lobbying effort to keep the issue before the General Assembly. We will not and have never violated the confidentiality of our email contacts. You do not have to be the parent of a potential student to support Charter in Scott County. You need only to care about the proper and effective use of taxpayer dollars as relates to the education of our young.

Charter will do that. And improve the public system at the same time.

And a public school Superintendent's worst friend? You bet!    




Sunday, February 19, 2017

"Hitch Up Your Britches"

In our opinion, Georgetown News Graphic Publisher and Editor Mike Scogin has crossed an ethical line by criticizing the author of a "Letter To The Editor" published in his own newspaper. And by so doing chills the free expression and submission of opinions that otherwise doesn't align with Mr. Scogin's.

Scogin has long skirted ethical lines as regards his wife's employer, the Scott County Board of Education, but has come ever closer to crossing the line since a committee formed to oppose the Board's January 10, 10% tax increase. Scogin, in our opinion and possibly The Society of Professional Journalist's opinion, crossed an ethical line in a "commentary" in the Saturday, February 18 edition of the News Graphic. There on page 5 Scogin thinly veils the identity of his scorn by claiming he is addressing the pro-recall petition submissions of "several" people who he has published "over the past weeks". A review of all editions back to the January 2 edition reveals Mr. Scogin's target is most likely frequent contributor Judy Rembacki.  Since January 2, we find Scogin publishing only two pro-recall submissions, while publishing three pro-tax editorials, one pro-tax commentary and two pro-tax letters to the editor. Only Ms. Rembacki appears to have crossed Mr. Scogin's line by writing a "letter to the editor" supporting signing the recall petition published in Scogin's February 2 edition. Prior to that submission, Scogin had never criticized Ms. Rembacki 's letters or commentaries.

Hiding his singular target in plurality, Scogin claims he is responding to the writerS' "absurd logic" and claims the writerS are neither "visionaries, truth-tellers or supporters of education". And then he claims that "both (?) are quick to say Republicans are the antichrist, and therefore Scott County's children be damned". We find no such reprehensible language from Ms. Rembacki or any other contributor.

We do find Scogin skirting ethical lines by obvious intimidation through his recent editorials. His January 7 editorial titled "SCHOOL BOARD MUST APPROVE TAX INCREASE" was clearly written to intimidate a January 10 tax increase approval from the School Board when he wrote "For parents and grandparents with students from sixth grade and below, this vote hits home. Because it will be your children and grandchildren who will either benefit or suffer as a result of the school board's decision that will be made this week". Where was Scogin and his editorials when the School Board elected to continue the suffering by approving using the funds reserved for a second high school be used instead for John Cooper and Scott United's Lemons Mill Elementary? And why did Scogin not support a "suffering relieving" second high school that could already be under construction with the additional $27 million bonding that appeared from thin air last August? And Scogin never mentions the savings the School Board will realize from the repeal of the prevailing wage, or the Board's recent approval of $1.5 million of construction funds being spent to upgrade a sports track, preferring instead to say "all questions have been answered" as relates to the tax increase.

Then in a January 12 editorial praising the School Board's approval of a tax increase, Scogin outright lied to the community when he stated "The tax increase can only be spent on facilities. It cannot be used for salaries, instructional resources, school supplies,etc." Lie might be too harsh a word had Scogin's paper not TWICE prior published the Board's legal notice stating that of the additional $4,068,017.57 annual revenue the tax will generate, $842,459.29 will go to "instruction", $104,165.63 will go to transportation, $168,508.93 will go to maintenance and $45,766.14 TO THE COST OF COLLECTIONS!!!! EACH AND EVERY YEAR FROM NOW ON!!!  But Scogin to this day has not published a correction that we can find that corrects his "mistake" that has mislead this community and violates The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics that requires journalists "Admit mistakes and correct them promptly".

Then Scogin intimidates and lies again in a January 24 editorial titled "There's no Plan B; schools need tax" stating in giant bold print in the margin - "But make no mistake, Scott County needs a new high school and the only way that will happen is if the 5.7 cent property tax is levied. For parents with children in grades six and below, pay attention because this problem is going to land at your children's door step".  Make no mistake Mike - Scott County Schools could already have a "second" high school under construction with the bonding already at its disposal! Shame on you! And shame on you for intimidating the parents!

And there can be no doubt that Scogin's wife being employed by the School Board and the School Board's extensive paid publications in Scogin's paper violates The Society's admonition that "professional journalists" "avoid conflicts of interest, real or percieved". With his wife being paid by the Board and the Board providing Scogin's newspaper substantial revenue, Scogin should have recused his opinions from the tax increase issue. Should the tax recall petition not be successful, we are not sure that a case couldn't be made that Scogin and his enterprise have interfered with the tax passage AND the subsequent recall process.

And now, in Saturday's commentary, Scogin admits his "anger" about the petition drive and then threatens that "If the petition succeeds and a recall election is held" we are to "hitch up our britches" while he stands "beside our school board and superintendent fighting for each and every vote." He goes on to justify his threats because of his belief that "it is absolutely necessary if we truly want the vitality of our community to continue...".

We aren't sure that The Society of Professional Journalists might rather conclude that Mr. Scogin isn't instead more concerned with the vitality of his wife's paycheck and his newspaper revenue than the community he and his paper has failed. Mike Scogin has overstepped the "power of the press".

Anybody know an attorney willing to "hitch up his britches"?


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

THE NOTION

THE NOTION came to us some time back via a trusted adviser. As we always endeavor to post only what we can substantiate, we have sat on the notion. But considered in their entirety what might otherwise be individual coincidental circumstances, and now a certain facebook exchange, all has us asking you consider those circumstances through the lens of THE NOTION. Again though, with our disclaimer that the notion remains unsubstantiated as of this writing.

At the top of the list of conjectured rationale of why Scott County High School was allowed to grow to and beyond the point of overcrowding, has been a notion that an influential group demanded Scott County's high school remain a single high school - all to foster a sports dynasty. First came then Superintendent Dallas Blankenship's tax increase to construct a mega high school back in the early 90's that was summarily defeated once that tax increase went to the polls for a vote by the community. Our Georgetown News Graphic's publisher and editor Mike Scogin (whose wife is employed by the Scott County Board of Education) has over the years since and as recently as a month ago editorialized his complaint that Scott County School's facility quagmire resulted from that voter rejection. HARDLY! The downscaled, unexpandable and overcrowded SCHS sitting with its trailers on its current landlocked site with the subsequent decades of bonding being exhausted for other projects are payback to those voters of yore. All while the overcrowding grew.

The ultimate slap in the face though came from Blankenship's successor, Patricia Putty. Saddled with a 2006 District Facility Plan (DFP) requiring she complete a phased second high school before any other projects could be undertaken, Putty began dismantling that DFP. The 2006 DFP, recognizing a depleted bonding circumstance, called for a phased construction of a second high school with Phase I resulting in what is now called Elkhorn Crossing School (ECS). Embedded in the north facing wall of ECS to this day are expansion bolts for which Phase II was to be attached.

Putty's first step that sabotaged the second high school called for in the 2006 DFP was to quietly appoint a 2010 Local Planning Committee (LPC) populated with Scott United ringers and chaired by Frankfort lobbyist and Scott United's own John Cooper. That LPC relegated a second high school's priority on the DFP below the construction of what came to be called Lemons Mill Elementary (LME). When additional bonding potential accumulated after LME exhausted the initial $20 million, a Phase II was authorized by the Roger Ward chaired Scott School Board that included current Board Member JoAnna Fryman and recently ousted member Jennifer Holbert, all voting to keep our bonding exhausted and buy the elementary students the lighted tennis courts and ball fields surrounding their school now visible from McClelland Circle. We've yet to witness any of the school's ELEMENTARY students playing tennis at night!

And our Board wants more of our money???

Putty's next step effectively poisoned the second high school's Phase II building site off the north wall of ECS when she volunteered that building site as a dump for the debris from the US 460 road widening project along Elkhorn Creek, spoiling any hope of building additional Phases of the second high school as planned.

When schstoobig entered the fray at the now infamous 2012 Valentine's Day Scott School Board meeting, the single high school faction was vocal and was represented primarily by the SCHS administrative staff. Schstoobig never entered the single high school argument. A look back at our early posts reveals we were about and remain to this day about relieving the overcrowding at SCHS, and we even stated a mega single high school was ok with us except that we wouldn't have the bonding to build it for a decade. Little did we know though that someone was suppressing a bunch of the bonding! A 2014 LPC (LPC's are convened every four years) put a "new" (not a "second") high school back in the DFP as a number 1 priority for completion. And yet with ample bonding and now three years later, we still haven't started construction.     And now - the notion.

The trusted adviser brought the notion to us right after new Superintendent Kevin "No Plan B" Hub suddenly and out of nowhere doubled the 750 student capacity second high school that he was hired to champion and initially did champion before meeting with local "civic" organizations. Curiously, at the same time, the previously vocal single high school crowd went suddenly silent. Almost as if a switch had been flipped. Previous SCHS Assistant Principal, then Ninth Grade Principal, and now current Maintenance Director Dwayne Ellison went further than that, from an ardent supporter of a single high school to a facebook supporter now of the 10% tax increase for a 1,930 student high school. And seemingly overnight! Hmmm?

And more curious, at the same time the single high school contingent went quiet, their most vocal and most public spokesperson, former SCHS Assistant Principal Susan Duncan, announced her candidacy for the School Board seat to soon be vacated by then Board Chair Haley Conway. Mrs. Duncan had previously made an impassioned case before the Board citing rationals of how a second high school would compromise Advanced Placement successes and erase many of the opportunities a large high school offers its students. Then, previous School Board Vice Chair and now Chair Kevin Kidwell and previous School Board Member and now Vice Chair Stephanie Powers reversed their August "no" votes for a tax increase and joined Mrs. Duncan and voted FOR the 10% tax increase just days after Mrs. Duncan was seated on the Board in January! And then the 1,500 capacity quietly grew to 1,930.

And now this - a recent and otherwise amicable facebook exchange on the Scott Countians Against The BOE Tax Hike facebook page between Mrs. Duncan and our friends administering the schstoobig facebook page ended suddenly when the notion was brought up? Hmmm?

The notion is - if the Scott County School Board's 10% tax increase is upheld, Scott County will have a "new" high school sure enough, but may well not have a "second" high school.

Certainly such an eventuality wouldn't be discussed now, but no one should be surprised, should, as completion of the 1,930 student school building approaches three years from now, that the Board then announce that a single high school would be a more fiscally prudent solution to Scott County High School's overcrowding problem. Never mind that they won't mention that to accomplish such a plan, the absurd and costly Ninth Grade School would need to remain for the numbers to work. And the numbers would work with a 1,930 student high school, a 432 student ECS and a 650 student Ninth Grade School with plenty of room to expand in what would be the old SCHS.

Think about it folks. Why hasn't our School Board built the second high school we need with the ample bonding we have and as proposed when Hub arrived? Why increase the student capacity of the school from 750 to 1,930, putting the school out of reach without a tax increase? Why risk a further delaying of a school needed for over a decade should a voter recall be successful? Why would a new School Board fully cognizant of the contempt the community holds for the previous Boards not first demonstrate to that community a new fiscal sense of responsibility instead of allowing their new, out of town Superintendent demand a 10% tax increase from that community in his first 30 days on the job? Why would the impassioned voices supporting a single high school suddenly go silent at the same time their spokesperson files her candidacy for School Board and the the school's capacity almost triples?

We don't know the answers to these questions. The NOTION however, whether correct or not, sure answers them. The notion is sure to rile those in favor of the 10% tax increase, but those supporters, our School Board and its new Superintendent should not be surprised that such notions appear in a vacuum created by a lack of forthrightness and transparency. $27 million of bonding out of thin air? Yeah - right!

One thing is for sure - even without considering all the curiosities or considering the notion, the taxpayers of this community deserve a vote, BUT WON'T GET ONE FROM THIS BOARD UNLESS FORCED BY A 2500 SIGNATURE PETITION!

The petition deadline to bring the already passed tax increase to a taxpayer vote is February 23 and won't be successful unless YOU have signed it. Stop by Carriage House Gifts across from K-Mart and sign TODAY!

Should the notion be more than a notion, the next question is - what would the "new" high school be called - Scott County High School or Great Crossing High School?

What's your NOTION?




Monday, February 6, 2017

HERE COMES THE TAJ MAHAL!

Know what a "natatorium" is?  No, it's not a swimming pool.  A swimming pool is a swimming pool. A "natatorium" is a swimming pool fit for a Taj Mahal!  More on the natatorium in a bit, but it leads us to ask  - how can a School Board that won't address its out of control spending dare ask its community for even more to spend?

It's now official! The Owen County News peripherally (and probably unintentionally), covers Scott County school affairs far better than our own Georgetown News Graphic (see our previous post - Silent Windfall). This time, in the January 25 edition of the Owen News Herald, the paper reports that the Owen County Public School system holds their salary expenditures to 73% of their operating budget, just as the Kentucky Department of Education recommends. Proving it can be done!

You won't read this in the Georgetown News Graphic, but the same Scott County School Board that is unnecessarily delaying the construction of Great Crossing High School (GCHS) as it holds that construction hostage to a money grabbing tax increase, spends far outside the KDE recommendation of spending no more than 74% of a district's operating budget for salaries. Far outside to the tune of $5 million each and every year on unnecessary salaries! No wonder they are willing to hold a much needed second high school hostage!

But, like the suppressed $27 million of bonding discovered last July and the silent $10 million windfall provided by the repeal of the prevailing wage law last month, you will not hear about Scott County School's out of control salaries either from the School Board or read about it in the bought and sold Georgetown News Graphic.

Scott County Schools has an annual operating budget of $60 million and spends 84%, or $50 million of that for salaries, leaving $10 million for all other facets of district operations. No wonder the school district has for years been robbing the Capital Outlay Fund (construction fund) to cover other district needs, explaining why Director of Facilities Dwayne Ellison cannot repair all that "aging flooring". The Kentucky Department of Education says districts should not spend more than 74%, or $44.4 million in Scott's case. Lets see, that's about $5.5 million a year spent unnecessarily, while our neighbor to the northwest holds their salaries to 73%, as probably does all those districts that can provide for their student's facility needs!

There is the second high school our students need, and then there is the second high school our Superintendent and School Board NEEDS to justify their 10% tax increase passed at the January 10 Board meeting. Now, we know that facebook cannot be relied on, but folks - there is a lady out on facebook claiming the $58 million GCHS will now actually cost at least $75 million as currently planned, and more likely $85 million if she gets the natatorium she is lobbying for! This lady may know from which she speaks. She did after all sponsor a pro- tax meeting this past Tuesday that was attended by at least one School Board member. Her cost estimates made facebook just after that meeting.

This same lady and her "johnny come lately" cohorts claim we need to get over Scott School's past, and only look forward. Her School Board member contact agrees, posting on facebook that the Board's tax increase "really is about the kids". OUCH! Here comes a natatorium!

We have resisted putting the past behind us for this reason - because doing so fulfills the adage "those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it". But we may have found putting that past behind more palatable had our new School Board and Superintendent shown some sign that they have learned anything from that past. Have you heard any indication that this Board or Superintendent recognize any opportunities where they might tighten the district's fiscal belt? Do you see any indication that this Board and Superintendent recognize that something that can't be accounted for happened to the taxpayer's money over the last 20 years? Is anyone being held accountable for that past? You must ask "Why can Scott County not build facilities when even the poorest school districts in the state can?"  You must ask it because our School Board members won't!

If our School Board is oblivious to the questions, there can be little hope that they will behave any differently than their predecessors. The biggest tell that this is true is that the Board is so willing to return to the taxpayer money well without putting forth even a facade that they intend to get their fiscal house in order. No discussion whatsoever that they spend that $5.5 million more each and every year on district salaries. Instead our "new" School Board asks its taxpayers to pony up another $4 million plus to add to their $60 million annual operating budget. And get this!!!  According to their legal notice, the Board will spend $45,000.00 each and every year JUST TO COLLECT THAT $4 MILLION PLUS! It's good work if you can get it!

The extra $5 million plus in salaries each and every year helps explain why a parking space cannot be found most school days at Central Office. What do so many people do in the course of a day outside the classroom? Let us be clear, our boots on the ground and classroom personnel are not the subject of our criticism. But a little attrition at the Central Office and individual schools administrative level would go a long way. Why, just letting a few spouses and family members of administrators go would probably fix a good deal of the overage.

The second high school that this community and its children have needed for a decade or more can be built yesterday with the Board's $60 million of bonding at its fingertips. Now, that $60 million is just the bonding that we know of - remember that $27 million of it appeared out of thin air this past July. It was then that new apparent plagiarist Superintendent Kevin "No Plan B" Hub realized we could afford to build the GCHS we needed, and so set about specing instead the school HE NEEDED to justify a 10% tax increase that would provide a perpetual $4 million plus per year that will help cover the same fiscal ineptness that put Scott Schools in the shape we find it in today.

But for now, the school our Superintendent and School Board WANTS, risks a voter recall that will continue to delay the second high school our students and teachers NEED!

But hey, who doesn't want a Taj Mahal - replete with a natatorium!


Saturday, January 28, 2017

THE SILENT WINDFALL

Wouldn't you think a windfall of $10 million for our claimed near destitute Scott County School Board be worthy of at least a mention, if not a headline, in our community newspaper? And shouldn't that same windfall be a cause for celebration at Central Office, where our School Board met an unprecedented and unscheduled three times in one week, the very same week news of the windfall came out of Frankfort?

You would think! But any discussion of the benefits for Scott County Schools from the repeal of the long demonized "prevailing wage" law is taboo among school personnel and prohibited from mention at all in the Georgetown News Graphic newspaper by edict from on high.

Interestingly though, readers of the January 18th Owen County News Herald were not denied the happy news of their neighbor to the southeast's windfall. There, in the Owen County News Herald, Scott County's State Representative Phillip Pratt was published stating "As Scott County prepares to build a new $58 million second high school, repealing the prevailing wage law means that the taxpayers of Scott County will save an estimated 10 - 16 percent on the total cost of the project. A savings of approximately $6-$9 million on the second high school means we can do more with our precious tax revenues to serve our students."

Now that should be GREAT news to Scott County School Board Member JoAnna Fryman, who claims the district is so desperate for funds that they would not be able to afford a repair should a school building's HVAC system fail! Never mind that just such eventualities should be budgeted for in the district's $60 million a year operating budget. And never mind that the same School Board claiming it can't afford to fix the AC also claims that a second high school (whose cost is now lowered to less than $50 million) cannot be built with the $60 million of bonding potential they control, but just approved Thursday night an unbudgeted $1.5 million expenditure to repair and upgrade the sports track beside Scott County Middle School! Now how are we to reconcile that unbudgeted $1.5 million expenditure with the plaintive facebook post of Scott School's Director of Maintenance Dwayne Ellison?

There on social media, skirting an employee code of ethics violation, Mr. Ellison leads voters to believe that the cost of a recall election will prevent his replacing "aging flooring" but fails to mention what he could do for ALL the students with the $1.5 million being spent on a sports track. And where do you suppose the unbudgeted $1.5 million comes from? Hmmm. How many HVAC systems could Mr. Ellison replace entirely for $1.5 million, Mrs. Fryman? Can anyone spell "disingenuous"?

In his post Ellison agrees with News Graphic publisher Mike Scogin, who lied in a January 12th editorial that "This tax increase can only be spent on facilities. It cannot be used for salaries, instructional resources, school supplies etc." while the District's legal public notice spells out that $1,160,899.99 of the annual $4,068,017.57 10% tax increase will go directly into the district's General Fund, with $842,459.29 of it going for "instruction"; $104,165.63 to "transportation"; $45,766.14 to "cost of collections" (ha, who's doing the collecting - Scott United?); and $168,508.93 of the amount going directly into Ellison's maintenance of plant budget.

No, Superintendent Hub will not find Ellison's facebook post to be an ethics violation. Heck, Hub may well have written it for him. No wait - that's probably not it, seeing how Hub seems to prefer the George Lusby "model" for writing letters (more on this in a subsequent post)! But WE certainly find Ellison's misinformation "ethically challenged".

Shouldn't our School Board be shouting the great news of the $10 million prevailing wage cost savings from the roof tops? Sure they should, but that great news is directly contrary to the Board's narrative that they need a 10% tax increase to build a second high school, all while approving the aforementioned unbudgeted $1.5 million expenditure Thursday night. But no, the Board members are more than mum about the great news - they are absolutely mute.

There is no mention of the great news on any of their individual Board Member facebook pages that are otherwise littered with posts full of misinformation about school "capacities", leading the voters to believe those "program capacity" numbers are building capacities - THEY ARE NOT! No mention whatsoever of the great news at the unscheduled and unprecedented three meetings the Board conducted in just one week in early January and no mention at this past Thursday night's School Board meeting either. But especially interesting - no mention whatsoever in the Georgetown News Graphic newspaper!

Nope, cooperating in this news black-out is Mike Scogin, the News Graphic's Publisher and Editor whose wife is employed by the Scott County School Board. This is no surprise coming from the bought and sold Scogin who avoided any editorial comment about his wife's employer until his recent multiple misleading and intimidating editorials supporting his wife's employer's 10% tax increase. What explains State Representative Pratt's home county newspaper avoiding reporting his deserved great news that a neighboring county's newspaper finds absolutely newsworthy? Scogin has long provided his wife's employer a blind eye, but this news black out is beyond the pale!

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that our "new" School Board is no more "above board" than its predecessors, but we can certainly be disappointed. Complicit in allowing three Board meetings in one week early in January to hurriedly get their 10% tax passed before the news of the prevailing wage repeal could get out; complicit in allowing a Board tax vote that was destined to fail when originally scheduled back in August to be postponed until two new members could carry the vote once seated in January; approving a complete replacement of Central Office windows and a $1.5 million sports track expenditure while denying the upgrade of aging floors across the district; and now this suppression of the great news that the district will save upwards of $10 million for the construction of a second high school - all leaves that suspicion of their integrity is not only understandable, but unavoidable. It's as if our School Boards can find satisfaction in their successes only if there is an underhanded component that gets them to a success.

What a missed opportunity for our School Board to have regained the public's trust and support by simply building the long promised second high school with the ample funds they had instead of holding that construction hostage to their greed! Oh - and what about that mysterious $27 million of bonding appearing out of thin air last July that the Board still will not discuss?

It follows now that there would be a pro-tax minion parade, Juddites many, who are all over social media claiming schstoobig is against a second high school! WHAAAAAAAT? These neo toobiggers, who have never darkened the doors of a School Board meeting, accuse us of delaying a second high school. Geeze! Just check our blog posts folks. Time and again we have insisted we would support a tax increase for school facility bonding beyond a second high school and that the district's holding that school's construction hostage to a tax increase delays construction that could already be underway with the ample bonding we have! Having watched a second high school robbed time and again, how can anyone expect we should just fall for it and fall in line with the neo's under informed, devoid of historical perspective - perspective?

The tax is passed and although there are easily 25,000 voters opposed, the rigged recall provision leaves little hope that 2,500 signatures of those 25,000 can be physically secured in the short 45 day window, so there is little reason we should continue to attempt to educate the ill-informed 10% tax increase supporters of what is really going on here. But we will not fall for it or fall in line! Anyone denying that the tax increase is anything other than a money grab in light of this silent windfall, well - are no better than a School Board not operating "above board".

What a shame that Owen County residents are more aware of the truth than a State Representative's home county that keeps his deserved celebration of a windfall - SILENT.   

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Half Asinine

Less than 2500 feet (shouting distance)  from where our Scott County School Board was making a sham of what state law intends to be an opportunity for the public to have the School Board's ear before deciding to pass a tax increase, Western Elementary's roadside school sign proclaimed INTEGRITY as January's "virtue of the month".       Maybe we should repeat that - in less of a run on sentence.      LESS THAN 2500 FEET FROM WHERE OUR SCOTT COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD WAS PRETENDING TO LISTEN, WESTERN ELEMENTARY TEACHERS HAD EARLIER THAT DAY BEEN TEACHING OUR CHILDREN THE VIRTUE OF INTEGRITY! Lessons obviously lost on the leaders of our district as they took leave of that very virtue, making a mockery of the intent of a "public hearing" by grunting their pre-negotiated "ayes" less than two minutes after "hearing" from that public. And all just so new Superintendent Kevin Hub could "check" a tax increase off his list and take a few days off work.

But it is the message on another school's roadside sign that had had us perplexed for weeks.


Yes, the message on one side of the Ninth Grade School's sign had escaped us - until we reconciled Hub's boisterous and dramatic behaviors here in his first six months at Scott County Schools with an account of his 18 month tenure at Logan County Schools.  Turns out the sign perfectly describes the chaos created by the drama Hub introduced, then abandoned at Logan County Schools just before his coming to Scott County. It's clear though that our Board has been taken in by Hub's unbridled takeover, although he an under-vetted Superintendent who fails to vest himself and his family by taking up residence and paying taxes in the community he raises taxes in.

It is our fervent hope that the Board's collective lapse of integrity Tuesday night was temporary, but we are disappointed that it included the only School Board member to date that had publicly made a difference in our school district, one we thought could tell when she was being served Kool-Aid.

Reading from an under prepared statement that was later posted to her BOE facebook page, Vice Chair Stephanie Powers acknowledged her own lapse of integrity by voting contrary to her campaign promise to NOT vote for a tax increase. Curiously, Mrs. Powers attempted to justify that lapse by claiming her no tax increase promise was based on the previous Board's passing of an "asinine" 27% tax increase. We must ask, doesn't that make this 13% increase - "half asinine"?   We think so.

Mrs. Powers also seemed to be duped by program capacity numbers, numbers that have little to do with physical building capacities. If the elementary schools were physically over capacity as some encourage her to believe, the state fire marshal would have long since weighed in. Those capacity numbers are PROGRAM CAPACITIES! Mrs. Powers also agrees on facebook with the "facts" that Mike Scogin published in Thursday's paper, one such fact in complete disagreement with her Director of Finance. But in fairness to Mrs. Powers, the entire Board's drinking of the Hub Aid qualifies as half asinine.


State law allows school districts to take a maximum of 4 "nickel" tax increases. Before this "nickel" was passed Tuesday night, Scott County had already taken 3 nickels over the years, placing Scott in the company of only 15 other school districts statewide to have done so. Tuesday's vote placed Scott County in rarefied air indeed, lending credence to Hub's boastful post on the district's website (posted immediately after the vote - as if pre-prepared) announcing his tax victory as "History In The Making For Scott County Schools". Well, you can say that again. Scott is now 1 of only 2 school districts in the state having maxed out their nickels. What else besides leaky books explains where all that money has gone over all these years and what explains our Boards not noticing? Our School Board should be ashamed to take so much from the taxpayers and still not be able to meet the needs of our students and school district.

A "nickel" in Scott County's case amounts to an annual influx to its General Fund of $4,068,017.57. That's a lot of "Hub-Aid". Money is a Superintendent's best friend and will allow Hub to collect his $200k a year without ever having to have a Plan B. Heck, with the extra $4 mil a year coming in, he doesn't even need a Plan A. Hub can just emulate Dallas Blankenship and put the district on cruise control by throwing cash at each and every problem that arises. There should even be plenty left over to throw some Scott United's and Mike Scogin's way.

But there was absolutely no need for a tax increase for facility construction at this time. We understand that most don't understand that the $4 million a year tax increase ISN'T what will build our new high school. We suspect there are even some who think the "nickel" tax means their property tax bill will only go up 5 cents. What concerns us though is that some of our School Board members might not really understand how the tax increase works. Most of the Board are quite new to the post after all. They have yet to recognize that their Superintendent has no incentive to be forthright with them. Veteran member JoAnna Fryman  has acknowledged repeatedly in open meetings of late that it has become obvious that Patricia Putty and her administration withheld vital information and provided false information to her Boards, yet there remains no consequence. Why shouldn't a Superintendent manipulate their Board in such an unaccountable environment?

Georgetown News Graphic Editor and Publisher Mike Scogin certainly doesn't understand the tax increase, but that doesn't stop him for spreading mis-information about it. After long avoiding editorial comment on the shenanigans of his wife's employer, Scogin published his second predictably pro-tax editorial in Thursday's edition. Scogin's words - "The tax increase can only be spent on facilities. It can not be spent on salaries, instructional resources, school supplies, etc." confirms January isn't the month for integrity, journalistic integrity having long since been abandoned by Mr. Scogin. Geesh, what a tool! And we all know for whom he serves as a tool.

In Scogin's own newspaper, TWICE, Scott School's Director of Finance Randy Cutright admits in the district's legal notice that $1,160,899.99 of the just passed yearly tax increase of $4,068,017.57 will go directly into the district's operating budget for General Fund items such as instruction, maintenance of plant, transportation etc. Maybe you should read your own paper Mike! Or were you just taking dictation? That million plus annual amount has nothing to do with building a new school Mike, and nothing commits the balance of the $4 million to be spent on any new facilities either. Will you print a "correction"? No - the tax doesn't build a school, the actual tax increase only pads the General Fund, the same General Fund that years of mismanagement (or something) has the district paying out $5 million a year in excess of what the state recommends on district salaries.

No - schools are built from the increase in a district's bonding potential (think - amount the district can borrow) that a tax increase generates. The tax itself goes into that General Fund black hole that greases the wheels and operates the school district. But the tax's impact on bonding allows the district to go further in debt when it issues bonds based on that increased revenue. But hey - taxes and debt are no sweat off a Madison County resident's back.

The $4 million plus tax increase, meant to be the vehicle to increase bonding for facility construction, is usually the icing on that cake of increased bonding. In Hub's case though, it is the other way around. For Hub, the cake was always the tax increase with the bonding increase being the icing. Scott County's desperation for a high school, regardless that we could already afford it, was the perfect leverage for Hub to coerce the annual influx of cash! Now nothing stands in the way of the real property (land) purchases the Board recently retired to Executive Session to discuss privately. Will Scott United's Mike Hockensmith conduct the property appraisals as he did when he valued the 110 acres where ECS sits at $21,000 an acre - at a time when five acre tracts were going for half that? Just sayin...

No - the tax increase was not needed AT THIS TIME. Yes it is true that because of previous Board's and administration's mis-management of the taxpayer's monies, facilities beyond the construction of a second high school will certainly require a tax increase. And we could have supported that tax increase at that time. But the Board fell for Hub's fabrication that Great Crossing High School could not be built without a tax increase, even in the face of the discovery of a suppressed $27 million of bonding potential and EVEN IN THE FACE OF THE REPEAL OF THE STATE'S PREVAILING WAGE LAW THAT WILL LOWER THE COST OF GCHS BY AT LEAST $10 MILLION. The travesty is that the construction of our long needed new high school was unnecessarily put on hold while waiting for the aye votes of our two newest Board members after an August vote was cancelled when it was determined the increase would not pass at that time. Hub gamed the vote because he wanted the $4 million now instead of when it would have actually been needed. He was willing to hold the construction of GCHS hostage to get that $4 million a year. And the Board allowed it. Talk about asinine!

We must also consider that there may have been even more than $27 million of bonding being suppressed and that this tax increase serves as a mechanism to slip the excess in under cover. Hub's sketchy defense of his and Putty's and Blankenship's Director of Finance and of where the $27 million came from does not explain why the Director of Finance was not aware of those sketchy circumstances. The DoF was either complicit or complacent. We are not sure which is worse but what Superintendent wouldn't want either or both of those qualities in the employee who might otherwise hold his financial decisions accountable? A Director of Finance for the ages if ever there was one. And by his numbers a $4 million dollar tax will generate $40 plus million of bonding potential, and if so it extends that our current bonding "capacity" is in excess of $240 million, a full $145 million of it debt! Notice that Mr. Cutright never offered what the district's bonding would have been at the time of their issue had there not been a tax increase. Matters little though for what his projections are worth, but you can bet it would have been substantially more than the $55 million admitted to. Coupled with the construction costs savings from the repeal of prevailing wage, we could have easily built GCHS with no tax increase. But that scenario might not have opened the opportunity for the land purchases, and land purchases open up opportunities for leaks.

What has really changed? Eras are recounted by the Superintendents and Board Chairs who served during those periods. Thankfully the Sams / Ward / Conway / Putty era is history, as ugly as it was. We thank the aforementioned Stephanie Powers for bringing that debacle to a close. But the Hub / Kidwell era is off to a bad start as Kidwell appears as strokeable as his predecessor what with his August NO vote magically turning YES about the same time he became Chair. Yes, we may well have jumped from the pot into the frying pan, maybe the deep fryer what with the Board hiring for its new attorney an old friend of Hub's; double dipping cronies still being hired in gamed job postings; blatant nepotism still being ignored; still no programs proposed to get the $5 million of annual salary excesses in line with state recommendations; the public's business continuing to be conducted in private all while claiming a new transparency has come to our school district; school construction costs changing daily as does bonding numbers; etc., etc., etc.

But it is done and we will try and get over it. In the meantime we will continue to explore how the Board got to this lapse of integrity. And as further therapy, we will watch the Board ever closer and dare they use a lack of funds as an excuse for anything whatsoever. Soon to be flush with funds, there is no reason that every repair, every upgrade, every "unmet need" (including the windows at Garth Elementary) not be met and completed before the end of next fiscal (or as Putty would say "physical") year.

We are nothing if not resolute. And we certainly are not the "half asinines" our board takes its constituents to be.




Saturday, January 7, 2017

NO PLAN B

Scott County School's Superintendent Kevin Hub has a flair for the dramatic. After an unprofessional mocking of previous School Board Chair Haley Conway at last Tuesday's School Board meeting, Hub cutely ended a power point presentation at Thursday's meeting with an empty slide titled "Plan B", meant to emphasize that without a tax increase, a second high school cannot be built.

Really? Our new $200k a year Superintendent has no plan B? That's what he claims so dramatically. He openly admits to having no plan should the taxpayers muster another courageous rebuke to the padding of the school district's largesse. Sounds like a play directly from the John Cooper playbook of "how to coerce a tax increase". Could well be, what with Hub's very first meetings upon his hiring (maybe even before) being with Cooper's Scott United.

What's particularly painful about this "No Plan B" admission, is that it is entirely for dramatic effect. You see, just as Hub asserted to his Board on July 21 - that he would never offer an employee the opportunity to resign in lieu of termination, but turned right around and did so repeatedly - Hub not only has a plan B, it is already being executed.

Plan "B", should the public not give the district $4 million more a year for perpetuity ($4 million a year that can be spent however the Board desires), is to build a "new" high school with the ample monies it already has. That process is fully underway with expenditures occurring daily. A "new" high school is coming regardless of any tax increase. The Board has the funds, no tax increase required! Yet Hub and the Board continue to shamelessly use the new high school as a pawn to extort even more spending money from the taxpayers.

After discovering upon his arrival in July that the district has $27 million more in bonding than the Putty administration would admit to, Hub was quick to double the new school's capacity from 750 students (the average size of a KY high school) to 1,500 to help consume that $27 million so a tax increase argument wouldn't further erode. And now we discover (with no previous public indication) that the Board approved upping that capacity to 1,930 Thursday night, lending further credence to the notion circulating that the "new" high school will not be a "second" high school. The kicker though (and as we predicted), is that today the KY General Assembly passed a bill under "emergency" language that immediately ends the government rip-off called "prevailing wage", saving Scott County an additional $10 million in construction costs of its new high school. We can afford this thing, folks! As we mentioned last post, this flurry of early January Board meetings is to get ahead of the public's learning of the new General Assembly's actions. The new General Assembly also spells trouble for Hub's selling point of a possible state match of the increase. That scenario, never guaranteed, looks very unlikely now.  A tax increase for the construction of a new high school simply isn't indicated!

But Hub can do nothing at next Tuesday's meeting (the third in one week to make all this work) without a minimum of three Board members approving it. What's particularly interesting is the Georgetown News Graphic's revelation in today's edition, that the same two Board members that caused Hub to postpone the August 18 tax increase vote because they were to vote no, are now all about voting YES!

According to the News Graphic, Kevin Kidwell and Stephanie Powers (who campaigned on a no tax platform) are now assured YES votes. Now, what could have caused a 180 for these two. Hmmm? The only thing that is different is that Kidwell is now Board Chair and Powers is Vice-Chair. Hmmm... Just sayin...?

Are these two OK that their Superintendent has no Plan B? Are they ok that their school district spends $5 million more each and every year on salaries than the Kentucky Department of Education recommends? Right there is your tax increase and then some! They must be ok with the excessive salaries, there have been more positions created by the Board in the six months of Hub than there were in the entire 8 years under previous Superintendent Patricia Putty, with the Board approving the creation of four more positions at Thursday's meeting alone. How about a Plan B that stops the wholesale consumption of the 4% tax increase the district takes each and every year? No - a Superintendent's credo insists on more and more of the taxpayer's money to throw at each and every problem instead of mustering the courage, energy and insight to manage effectively and efficiently.

Here's how the rigged tax increase system works. Should a district want even more than the 4% it legally takes each year, state law requires the district run a minimum of two ads advertising a public tax hearing, where the board can hear and consider the public's concerns about the proposed extra tax. Should a School Board, after considering public sentiment, wish to proceed, they must vote to pass their tax increase at a public Board meeting. After passage, law dictates the tax cannot begin collection for 45 days, allowing for a committee of 5 property tax paying citizens to form and collect 2,300 property tax payer's signatures and submit those signatures for certification to the County Clerk. Should the County Clerk certify those 2,300 signatures, the tax cannot proceed with collection before being placed on a ballot to afford all  registered voters an opportunity to vote for or against the tax. The News Graphic reports that new Board Chair Kidwell made a "plaintive" (pitiful) plea Thursday that a committee not form to oppose the increase, because that would waste $80,000 of the district's money for the special ballot it would have to sponsor. Well, cry us a river! Let Hub eat the $80k, it was he after all that cancelled the August 18 Board vote on the tax that would have allowed a public vote to piggyback on the November general elections - costing exactly nothing. On second thought, the Board should pitch in too since IT WAS THE BOARD WHO ALLOWED HUB TO GAME THE BOARD'S VOTE!!! Hub can do little without the Board's approval, but for some reason our Boards answer to their Superintendents instead of the other way around.

This legal "recourse" called a "recall", is mostly for looks. It is a near impossible task to accomplish in the short 45 day window, which is what the Board counts on. But a stalwart group of 5 citizens DID coalesce just three years ago when the School Board attempted a similar ruse. And the 5's monumental effort was rewarded with the Board cowardly dropping their tax to save the embarrassment awaiting them should they allow their constituents a voice. We thank that "stalwart 5" from 2013, but acknowledge it would be asking too much for them to undertake the task again. And this is where the "recall provision" is rigged. All a School Board has to do is grunt "aye" when the Board vote is taken, but the citizens are left with a near impossible task for "recourse". And the Board need only keep grunting "aye" time and again until they wear the populace down. RIGGED against the taxpayers for sure. If our Board's heart was right, it would allow the public a vote without forcing the recall burden upon them.

Worse this time is our illustrious School Board's satisfying the "letter" of the tax increase law, but giving the "spirit" of the law and their constituents a collective middle finger by scheduling their meeting to pass the tax immediately after the tax hearing. So much for considering and digesting the public's opinions and concerns. The Board's intentions are obviously a foregone conclusion.

Let us guess School Board - "it's all about the kids".  Yeah - right, the kids and Scott United! The Board has no legitimate reason to risk another construction delay that necessarily comes with a recall effort. The Board has ample money to construct a new high school yesterday and can make its case for future facility needs at a future time.

Shame on you "new" School Board!  With your taking advantage of the rigged system to force an unneeded tax increase and having your vote immediately after your little advertised "public hearing", we suppose you have no need for a "Plan B".