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Bonneville School District 93: Another Bond Election Coup

December 19th, 2006 by Halli

Bonneville District 93 has a long history of strategizing to thwart the responsible taxpayer by passing excessive bonds. They’ve just executed another landslide approval of a school bond. Yes, they’ve shopped the districts in the state for these ideas, but they’ve raised their implementation to an art form.

Are you surprised that a school district may have an actual scheme for extracting every cent possible from property owners within its boundaries? If I were a betting woman, I’d wager a fair sum that the plan is actually written and kept at district headquarters.

There’s no need to keep it a secret, however, as any observer can quickly deduce it’s structure each time a bond is proposed and put to the vote. In case you haven’t had the opportunity to observe District 93 at its finest, here are the main points of the plan.

  • First, the school board solicits the most inflated projections of future school building needs and population growth (usually from developers who think they’re building the next Gilbert, AZ).
  • Public board meetings are held at which members solemnly consider the projections and invariably conclude that building now will save taxpayers in the long run. Note to board members: it is of the utmost importance to give the appearance of earnest deliberation while in front of the public.
  • The board (behind closed doors) assigns the district business manager to crunch the numbers in a manner that proves taxpayers will never pay more taxes if a new bond is passed. (It’s not the board’s fault if property valuations go up and raise taxes and they’ll tell you that if you ask.)
  • The board closely examines the school calendar, searching for a date that is neither too close to a general election, nor too far from a holiday, or alternatively, a parent teacher conference.
  • Assure that every school in the district sends home a flood of propaganda promoting the passage of the bond. Be sure to include dire predictions of portable classrooms, overcrowded classes, famine and pestilence should the bond fail. (This step necessitates foregoing – at least for a few weeks – the usual claim of paper shortages caused by stingy patrons.)
  • Somehow fail to inform the usual news outlets of the bond election. If they’re doing their job, they’ll get wind of it before the date on their own. Under no circumstances attempt to promote the bond election in the mainstream media.
  • Oh, all right – finally mail out a district newsletter that arrives in mailboxes the day before the election. Buried in the newsletter (never in the headlines) include an impassioned pitch for more money. Now the district patrons who don’t have children in public school have been informed, as they should be. The day before the election.
  • Remember that many patrons do not have children in traditional public schools. They have grown children, home school, or place their children in charter or private schools, so will not have received the deluge of pro-bond propaganda sent home from public schools. Under no circumstances is it desirable to mobilize this segment of the electorate, as they are less likely to vote “yes”. Keep them in the dark about the election date and the details of the bond. The less they know, the less likely they are to show up and vote “no”.
  • On election day, either parent-teacher conferences or all-school holiday programs will bring the maximum number of parents to the schools, where voting is held. If all goes well, crowded parking lots and side streets will actually deter non-school-parent voting.
  • It goes without saying that all school employees living within the boundaries of the district will vote, and they will be checking the “yes” box.
  • As district policy, do not utilize county elections voting procedures. Instead, have voters sign a made-up, copied form stating they have not and will not vote more than once at other district schools. Never cross-check the forms for possible multiple voting.
  • Make covert use of “special ops” voting. This includes assigning the high school principal to determine which senior government class students are of voting age, marching them down to the office and forcing them to vote on the bond, absentee. Of course, this exercise passes as a civics lesson. (Assigning detention to students who refuse to show the principal their “yes” vote is considered excessive.) Remember, if the news catches wind of this procedure and calls the district office, the secretary must be prepared to admit that this is against district policy and the ballots will be discarded. Not to worry – no one will ever know if the ballots are destroyed because there is no oversight of any kind.
  • Never allow any poll watching during voting, or observation during ballot counting.

By now you are thinking I’ve made this all up. Sorry, every point is actually true. OK, I made up the part about famine and pestilence. Other than that, every one of these strategies is used by District 93. They may not have written the book, but they certainly perfected the final edition. If any District 93 official, elected or appointed, disputes my list, I challenge them to prove me wrong. My only fear is that other districts will read this post and “improve” their own assault on unsuspecting patrons.

Does a reasonable taxpayer of District 93 stand a chance against this kind of onslaught? Find your answer in the figures from the just-completed bond election: 76.53% approval. The bond required a 66.66% majority to pass, and received that or better in every school except one, which still voted 63% in favor.

What percent actually voted? According to Bonneville County Elections, 16,874 voters were registered in District 93 at the time of the election, with more using same-day registration. Only 2411, or less than 15% (of the total before same-day registration), showed up to vote. Exactly the results the school board so carefully planned and worked for.

What can be done to stop this kind of sabotage, obstruction and obfuscation by school districts? The school board will tell you that everything they have done is within the law, and there is the problem. This must be addressed by the legislature, and the next session is none too soon. Expect another post in the near future detailing some possible fixes.

Posted in Education, Idaho Falls Issues, Idaho Legislature, Property Rights, Taxes | 2 Comments »

2 Responses

  1. » Blog Archive » Time to Consolidate Election Dates Says:

    [...] For too long cities and school districts and other taxing entities have chosen bond and levy election dates so obscure and poorly publicized that few voters even show up.  But that is their design.  Read on. Please read a previous post detailing how school districts, including my own Bonneville District 93, have perfected the art of whittling down the voters casting ballots on bond issues to a select few who are most likely to vote “yes”, “for the children”. [...]

  2. » Blog Archive » Another “Special” Day in Bonneville School District 93 - And Another Levy Election Says:

    [...] With barely a mention in local media until today, the District targets only those voters most likely to vote “yes”. For a more complete list of District 93 tax levy tactics, see Bonneville School District 93: Another Bond Election Coup. [...]

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