With the impending votes on the city and GASD budgets, it’s time to dust off the scripts and the cast for a very special reunion. It’s just like the dreadful reunions served up in the 70s and 80s when, lacking any originality by the studios and in sheer desperation by some of the cast members to revive their finances and ostensibly their careers, you could watch such classics as: The Munsters Today or the Gilligan’s Island Reunion.
Before reading on, let me issue a spoiler alert– I’m going to disclose how the episode ends and disclose details on the script and characters. So please leave this blog immediately if you want to partake in the drama as it unfolds. I will also be pointing out when these episodes jumped the shark because is there really anything more exciting than the Fonz jumping a shark. Classic!
The GASD Budget
This is tragic comedy at its best. Faced with escalating costs in health care and retirement benefits, a high need student population, growing class sizes, reduced funding from the state and no mandate relief, a vocal faction actually expects taxes to decrease and blithely ignores any consideration to academic performance and impacts under such a scenario.
Of course, this faction claims to have the interests of seniors and taxpayers at heart irrespective of the fact that other stakeholders exist in the equation who may have a vested interest in seeing their kids get a quality education or even those of us with a delusion that home values may have some correspondence to performance of the district. Nope, we don’t exist at all as the objective is cutting costs when the financial structure and funding of school districts clearly demonstrate how utterly unfeasible that becomes.
Of course, the problem in all this falls squarely on the shoulders of the Hispanic/Latino population as they are the ones with economic and political control of the city’s public institutions in terms of its governance, its financial management and its stewardship of the GASD. It’s not that the city faces its tax issues from lack of growth, lack of development, lack of strategy or lack of managing performance around academic outcomes.
It simply can’t be that.
The great tragedy here is that taxes are symptomatic of the problem and until people realize that you simply can’t expect academic performance to improve when you usher in higher class sizes and drop more teachers from the payrolls.
Of course, the past and current boards own the academic performance of the district and rather than focus on incentives to drive performance, they literally reward subpar performance by the administration.
And of course, we get the usual arguments of how GASD salaries are so far above the median incomes of folks in the GASD as if somehow that means you can drive salaries to the mean of the area versus recognizing that salaries work within a market that extends beyond the 12010. Yet this economic drivel passes as viable policy or objectives.
Finally, what enables this kabuki is the dysfunctional funding of schools via property taxes and its attendant distortions on taxes, equity and fairness. Couple that with the 2% tax cap abomination, it’s easy to see that districts such as this face critical challenges in meeting academic demands and financial demands.
The City Budget
I don’t care much for the drama of when the budget is released as it’s more than clear that the committee ownership of the budget results in a kabuki like atmosphere. I only want to draw attention to two things in the budget that matter and I am quite clear that they will not be in the budget:
1) Funding for growth
2) Removing water rates and fees from the city tax cap
On (1), it’s quite clear that year-after-year zero dollars in expense or capital go to growth initiatives. Like the GASD , the mantra is cutting costs which does not solve the problem of zero/low growth in the city. How can you expect tax rates to drop given no growth? Implausible but let’s keep trying for another decade or two, shall we?
On (2), the water rate should not fall under the cap for non-city residents. Sorry, town folks but as a city tax payer, I should not subsidize water rates so you get a lower rate than what the market may demand. Or let me put it another way: I want my taxes to be lower even if it means yours are higher. If you’re offended, you are basically saying you want yours lowered at my expense. Regrettably the city , by all rights, should have pricing power here but fails to assert it for reasons that escape me.
Parking Lot 1000 aka the former Chalmers site
The future is here and we now have a parking lot as so desperately craved by the protectors of the tax payers. Well, now what?
The Parking Lot 1000 episode pans out just like Episodes 1 through 999 of the Great Parking Lot saga– they remain a mystery decade after decade. They end like the classic Batman episodes with a “Stay Tuned” only that you don’t get to see how our superheroes escape dangling over a vat of acid or an approaching saw blade– you just “Stay Tuned” and the plot never resolves.