Over the weekend the “For Lakota” group of naïve, well-intentioned parents hit the neighborhoods talking up support for the levy. As I watched them, I saw nice people who truly mean well going door to door trying to win votes for a massive tax increase on property owners. They believe with all their hearts that what they are doing is best for the children—and a part of me admired their effort. But, that doesn’t make them right, just well-intentioned. A zombie craves blood and the sacrificial sustenance from others to survive. From a certain point of view, even a zombie can be made to look innocent and compassionate—after all they simply want to live—it doesn’t matter if they consume others to do it. They don’t want to die, so to continue, they must consume flesh. The same holds true of the Lakota Levy supporter who has grown over time to believe that the Lakota schools are the only means of redemption for their children, so they hit the streets going door to door talking to the people of the community with a friendly smile, and information they are taking directly to the voters. I found myself feeling sorry for those poor people the way I do a dog that has been dropped off on the side of a highway for abandonment. The dog looking crushed because the love of its life abandoned it for convenience seeks desperately for direction—and there are always only three possible fates for the lost dog—it can become wild and eat scraps the rest of its life, it may be captured by animal control and end up in a kennel possibly finding a home, but likely being put to sleep, or it will be hit by a car sending it to a grueling, painful death. Those are the metaphors I thought of watching the For Lakota people go door to door with their pro tax information. The reason I felt that way is shown on the chart seen below which shows the real story of the Lakota Levy of 2013.
On the chart, it is obvious the student enrollment will decrease dramatically in the years to come, yet Lakota plans to spend extraordinary amounts of money on salaries inflating wages that already average over $63K per year exacerbating them even further. In fact, the salary proposals are reckless—even by my standards. The graph shows clearly how much money should be budgeted based on enrollment numbers if all things stayed the same—and teachers with staff kept their current inflated wages. If enrollment at Lakota was 17,000 students per year, the budget should be $150 million. Yet it is clear by the chart that enrollment will drop down to under 16,000 by the year 2017 yet Lakota is proposing to pay employees at rates suitable to a school enrollment of around 18,000 students. The well-intentioned “For Lakota” volunteers going door to door obviously don’t care, or have not been told that the school is planning to over-pay their employees and carry staff that isn’t needed due to a 2000 student reduction in overall enrollment. They are simply mindlessly conveying the talking points given to them by the school.
The literature those volunteers are passing out states emphatically that the tax increase proposal is going for building upgrades, instructional technology, software and computers that will allow students to learn on the type of advanced systems that are needed to give them an advantage in preparing for higher education. Preparing current academic programs and modernizing courses. Offering additional art, music, and physical education for grades 4-6. Offering bus service to students in grades 2-6 who live farther than a mile from school. Encouraging participation in extra-cirriculars by reducing fees. Strengthening school security and maintaining current facilities. In other words, Lakota wishes to back-track from the mistakes they made trying to force previous levies down the community’s throat, and now want to offer all those items as though there were some type of bonus—like buying a special item on an $19.95 infomercial—then learning you get not just one—but two if you act now. The scam is all the same.
The literature from the For Lakota campaign goes on to state that the current budget is balanced, that they cut annual spending by $20.8 million, that salaries for all teachers and support staff have been frozen for the last 3 years (except for educational advancement—getting master’s and doctorate degrees—etc), and that the last levy was approved in 2005—the same year that YouTube was started. What all that nonsense is missing is the information on the chart above. Everything stated might justify a few million dollars as far as security, along with brick and mortar costs. The rest is from unmanaged salaries driven by collective bargaining agreements.
The sadness I felt for the levy supporters was the same as might be felt for an abandoned dog. Lakota knows what they are doing—they have the same information that is shown on that chart—because the numbers come from the same sources. They know that they are misleading the public at large—they know it full well. Yet they allow the very gullible, and numerically challenged to continue to mis-represent themselves with emotional statements that facts don’t support.
The truth is in the chart above, declining enrollment cannot be hidden from the public. Lakota is trying to do everything it can to get people to look at everything but what the real financial situation is—and that is Lakota will have to have large lay-offs just to deal with the current reality. Even with their work-reductions they could still keep their inflated wages and even offer pay increases—but they would have to reduce their staff considerably—which they will have to do one way or the other. With those facts known, Lakota will be operating with massive budget surpluses till 2017 where they plan to ask for more money then, and again around 2021, then again around 2025 going on forever. Every levy attempt will add around an additional $16 dollars per month to most house payments. For new residents who have come from high tax zones, especially from the East, that may not seem like a big deal. But for long-term residents like me who have been in the area for many decades and plan to remain for many more I can easily see taxes per $100,000 in assessment going up $100 by 2025—and there is no reason for it other than the misleading statements provided on the For Lakota literature. The information is misleading because there is money for those things right now—without a levy, and next year there will be even more, because declining enrollment will drive the surplus. But that is only if Lakota does the management side of their jobs and cut employees based on student enrollment. This means the only reason for the current levy is to avoid the painful process of cutting workers at Lakota to directly respond to enrollment needs. Lakota has a lack of will to engage in that process—and that is why it is sad to see them using the efforts of nice people to cover their crimes of indecision and mismanagement.