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District 200 Gets $14.4 Million Grant; Could Build New Jefferson Without Tax Hike

District 200 has received a $14.4 million capital grant check that could be used to build a new Jefferson - based on the District's own architect's plans - with no tax increase.

On May 7, 2012, District 200 received a check from the State of Illinois for $14,462,317, for the "School Construction Program."  (Check No. AA7703807)  That money is enough to build a brand new state of the art Jefferson Preschool, just as originally planned by the District's own architects, without raising property taxes.  Yet the District 200 school board chose to hide the money, and instead is seeking a tax increase referendum.  District 200 and the referendum supporters are using emotional appeals to promote the referendum, and hope voters overlook the Board's diversion of these capital funds.

District 200 is setting up a false choice for the upcoming referendum, by claiming that a tax increase and borrowing are needed to provide for the needs of Jefferson preschool students.  But parents and taxpayers should be outraged, because the District has the cash on hand.  If Jefferson special needs students were really the Board's highest priority, it would spend its school construction grant for school construction at Jefferson - not delay, and sit on the money to bolster its bank balance.  A new school could have been ready this fall, not in the fall of 2015.  A "no" vote on the referendum will tell District 200 to rebuild Jefferson with the money it already has, not borrow millions more.

District 200 usually publicizes even small grants, like a $2000 grant received by Johnson Elementary School.  But if you review the May 2012 board minutes, you won't find any discussion of a $14.4 million check, which is kind of a big deal.  This money can be spent for any school construction project - like Jefferson.  Why keep such a significant development quiet?  Because if voters find out, they might not be so eager to approve a big borrowing plan and tax increase.

At the time of the Hubble referendum, District architects Legat & Co. also presented three options to rebuild Jefferson.  The third and most expensive option was a completely new state of the art building, designed specifically for the District's needs, and projected to cost about $13.4 million.  Since that time, however, construction costs have actually declined, due to the collapse of demand in the housing market.  Using the Turner Construction Cost index - the standard Legat used in its presentation - the cost today would only be about $12.4 million.  Now, however, District 200 wants a building that is 20% bigger and 43% more expensive than what Legat proposed, and between 16% and 56% bigger than any of the peer facilities Legat evaluated.

Remember, Legat's original plan was part of the same presentation that included the “program driven” new Hubble middle school, which has been widely lauded by District 200, and is said to have been delivered "on time" and “under budget”.  So the District's architects were geniuses in designing and estimating the Hubble building, but at the very same time, were off by a factor of 43% on Jefferson?

District 200 figures also show that since the original Legat design, the overall number of special education students in the District is down about 10% (from 2230 to 2021), and the number of early childhood students is down about 20% (from 284 to 230).  Thus, the Legat design should be plenty big enough to provide for current needs and future growth if it occurs.  But even if a much larger building is needed, the District should still be using its school construction grant, rather than asking to borrow the full amount.  If it did so, the referendum would only require about $3.5 million, not $17.9 million.

If District 200 asks for a school construction grant from the State, and doesn't spend the money for school construction, how likely is it that the State will want to give District 200 additional grant funds in the future?

Bear in mind, also, that at the time of the Hubble referendum, the District promised the bond tax rate would never exceed 44 cents.  Yet by last year, the rate was almost 55 cents – 24% higher than the District promised – and it’s still going up!  Now is not the time to add more debt to the property tax burden, especially with "balloon payments" for prior borrowing looming on the horizon.

 

 

 

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Mom From Illinois January 30, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Dr. Harris in a question/answer forum said out of the $14, $3 was used to pay technology expenses, and the district is keeping the rest of the cash in their cash balance fund to pay other expenses. Dr. Harris explained just two years or so the district had to borrow money just to meet payroll. Now they need the $11 "as cash" b/c the State of Illinois is so slow to pay the district. District 200 is using the same financial strategy of dipping into one fund to pay off another - just like the State of Illinois. But the question is: can we really afford an almost $18 million building when we couldn't meet expenses just two years ago?
BIll I January 30, 2013 at 03:04 PM
If history is any indication, you will ultimately need to fight the school board all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court in order to get any answers to your questions.
Northside Debbie January 30, 2013 at 04:37 PM
@Mark Kmiecik. The Mark I was referring to was Mr. Stern. Seems like he only gets self righteous when it comes to CUSD200 and people the run against Jeanne Ives with his "investigations". He clams up when the bad actors of Milton face the light of transparency because of his close political ties to them. He was the Milton guy that took out Scott MacKay, and he was the Milton guy did Jeanne's political dirty work in 2011. My point is that he has an agenda, and all of those affiliated with him are part of it. That makes them all wack jobs! Beware!
Northside Debbie January 30, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Thanks Brian for exposing yourself as a disciple of Mark O. Stern. Now I know you are a Kool Aide drinker as well. The reason that I will not use my last name is the same reason that mental health professionals never give out their home address. When you deal with the crazies like Milton types and the "reformers" that Stern trumpets, it is best not to give out personal info. Just because your paranoid, doesn't mean they are not following you.
Brian Wells January 30, 2013 at 04:49 PM
Got it. Thanks, Debbie.
Kevin Fitzpatrick January 30, 2013 at 05:09 PM
Hi Brian, I intended to leave this subject for a while, but per your request, I did read Mark's piece above. There is no doubt that the school received this grant, that's a fact. There's also no doubt that it was requested for building school rooms at both High Schools in 2003. The money to do the building came from some source, while the district waited 10 years for the actual appropriation (this is a sad fact, but not all that uncommon). I think a review of the fund balance and the intent of where this grant is being spent is in order. School funds look flush at tax disbursement time and broke when the next one is due. The fund needs to be looked at on a per annum basis. Many if not most districts borrow toward the end of one period awaiting the next. I'll look further, but I don't agree with my friend Mark that there is $14M of unobligated money just sitting there. The expense this was granted for was paid for somehow and needs to get reimbursed, whether it's other fund transfers or bond payments. The finances of a school district are very complicated and shifting money between accounts to balance cash flow is something to watch, but not uncommon, illegal or unethical. Every public body deals with the same cash flow issues. It's worth a look and a few questions. Call the finance director if necessary.
Hank Kruse January 30, 2013 at 07:11 PM
Kevin, I do not mean to be confrontational, but you reside in Lombard and are not a stakeholder regarding this issue. The finances of a school district is only complicated when there is a lack of transparency and trust. CUSD200 needs a new board to review all aspects of the school district.
Mark Kmiecik January 30, 2013 at 07:59 PM
I am well aware of Jeanne's help she received from Milton Township. As far as Mark Stren is concerned, I think He has some valid points regarding district 200 accounting, But, as to issue of Jefferson School. I believe ( and this point as never been put out in the public discourse) there are a number of commercial properties, that lay empty in the district such as the old Jewel in downtown which could be purchased for 2 million and change, and converted to a suitable school. This is done all the time in privately run special ed schools throughout DuPage County. Many Special ed schools are now successfully using converted industrial buildings. I believe the Jefferson School problem could be solved for much less than 18 million with this approach . The people who run the schools tend to forget that the schools should be run for the benefit of the kids and not for the benefit of the employees and unions (building contractors etc..) I think the need of special ed kids at Jefferson school is real and need to be addressed, but I think there are better ways to get there and still respect the long suffering taxpayer ...
JanS January 30, 2013 at 11:43 PM
Mark Kmiecik has a great idea - buying commercial property that is already accessible and rehabbing it , is an idea worth investigating. I will support what ever option gives us the best school for our money. We can take care of the special needs preschool children using the $14+ million capital grant without going further in debt.
Doc Sands January 31, 2013 at 04:16 PM
Mark Kmiecik apparently is poised to once again attempt the same unsupported and malicious attacks on Milton Township. Kmiecik has failed to offered a single piece of substantial evidence to justify his extreme and irrational positions. Kmiecik never lets the facts get in the way of what he writes. I'm curious why Mark Kmiecik would try and damage the good names of respected public servants? Is it because he only received 8 votes out of 102 and was soundly rejected as Milton Township's candidate for County Board? Or was because the voters in Wheaton decisively rejected his bid for Wheaton City Council -- with Kmiecik once again coming in, a very distant dead last. Or maybe it's the fact he's a discredited individual in both Milton Township and Wheaton and he's trying to get even with people. There is not anything significantly new here. Kmiecik has offered up the same hateful rhetoric that revealed his contempt for Milton Township leadership . What's more than a little troubling here: Kmiecik thinks more of the same will get people to believe his self-delusion. Kmiecik is an angry individual espousing empty rhetoric, desperately trying to get even with the people who have rejected him. I feel sorry for Mark, it's obvious he's an unhappy person that should out professionals and get their guidance. Dr. Sands
Northside Debbie January 31, 2013 at 05:21 PM
@ Doc Sands. Mark Kmiecik is as crazy and deluded as Jeanne Ives. The only difference between Kmiecik and Jeanne Ives is that Jeanne Ives had a powerful sign captain and a public funded campaign supporting her devisive campaigns. Have you ever seen Jeanne's eye start to twitch when she is challenged? CRAZY! I would love to see her with a set of steel balls just like Captain Queeg.
Brian Wells January 31, 2013 at 06:21 PM
If just a couple more users will flag this Kmiecik distraction as inappropriate, Charlotte informs me that the system will remove the comments. As a Milton Township resident, it's not that I don't care. It's just that it has nothing to do with this editorial involving CUSD 200.
Kevin Fitzpatrick January 31, 2013 at 06:37 PM
Hank, I never mind being "outed" as a resident of the wonderful Village of Lombard and I don't consider your pointing out my residence status as the least bit confrontational. My position in this discussion has far more to do with the issue of Special Ed than the local politics of a particular school board. That one school board candidate was on a very public Chicago TV station espousing views that I know to be different than that of the compassionate community I know Wheaton to be is what inspired me to weigh in. I'm all for holding your local SB accountable. I'm not for 2 sides playing a nasty game of tug of war and using special ed kids as the rope. Since this conversation has evolved to the school board applied for and received a "State Grant", I'd remind you Hank that I do own property in the state and can logically conclude that some of that grant money came from my taxes too. If the SB is guilty of being "unclear" with the facts, so are the people who are countering them with assumptions about how a grant fulfilled 10 years after the fact has no obligations assigned to it. We're both smarter than that Hank. The special ed kids matter the most. Do right by them. If you win at their expense....you lose.
Hank Kruse January 31, 2013 at 08:35 PM
Kevin you assume that building a new facility under false pretenses is doing right by the children. The state of Illinois and specifically Wheaton are losing taxpayers. Taxpayers are needed to fund commendable public facilities. Due to the economic hard times many are facing (yes in Wheaton...look at home foreclosures) public entities will need to find innovative ways to help the public good. Is there an empty building that can be renovated? What about a direct grant to the parents, to have them work with professionals to tailor the best program for their child? Let's ask some more questions before the taxpayers are asked to pay more taxes.
Mark Kmiecik February 01, 2013 at 01:56 PM
Dr. Sands ( Dr. Coward), you are probably one of the persons I talk about and hides like the coward. Show your self. Your unsubstantiated ad hominem attacks made to my character and person is indicative of the kind of sleaze that comes out of that bunch of local apparatchiks. For the person who is willing to spend little time to find out the facts should provide proof of my position. http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/category/blog/milton/ http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2012/05/whats-wrong-with-milton-township.html http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW1RQc5EFpU Presentation make by Adam Andrzejewski For The Good of Ilinois PAC | Chairman see time mark (7:00 onward). Or this statement "Standard... every fact must have a public source (7:45) I ask Dr. Coward where's your poof that I'm wrong? its not about me, its about bad governance, cronyism, and worst. Is it wrong for a constituent and voter iand taxpayer to expect honest open governance in their community. For Northside Debbie, I guess wanting open, transparent and honest government makes me a wild eyed crazy, then I guess I am . We, deserve good government run by honest and forthright people.
Mark Kmiecik February 01, 2013 at 02:13 PM
I will weigh in on this issue which is now before the community. As I understand the issue is we in district 200 want to spend $18 million to take care of the facility needs of approximately 250 special ed students that now attend Jefferson school. If these numbers are true, then if we should divide 18,000,000 by 250 then then we get the quotient of $72,000 per student. Now if we assume that that student to teacher ratio is about 1 teacher for every 10 students there and the a teacher total cost for salary and benefits is approximately $100,000 per teacher then $10,000 per student for a total cost about $100,000 per special ed at the school. the question that I ask is are these numbers reasonable and is these funds actually going directly to the benefit of the children. For full disclosure I have a son who is special needs and has been in the system with IEP's for a long time. I think it is important that we take care of all children with a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment as required by Illinois law. These numbers that I quoted I welcome any critique thereof. But I think with the 18 million been spent or 14 mil we may be able be more efficient by looking the other nontraditional solutions to the facility problem such as the renovation of existing commercial building. In the end it's about the children and respect for the taxpayer.
Good Will Hunting February 02, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Well, well, well sounds like Mark Kmiecik is feeling the heat. Nothing frightens those who peddle lies than the cold hard light of TRUTH. They react to exposure of their deceits the way vampires react to a having a crucifix held up in front of them. From what I know of Mark Kmiecik from his run for Wheaton City Council of which he was crushed receiving less than 8% of the vote -- Kmiecik is an angry individual taking his anger out on an organization that didn't back him for his council run. So Kmiecik is going around trying to make the organization he "belongs" to and is supposed to be supporting look bad. That really says a lot about Mark Kmiecik and the type of individual he is.
Lynn K February 02, 2013 at 08:07 PM
There is so much “talk amongst yourselves” about the Jefferson Referendum. Has anyone bothered to ask the School District for answers? I did. Here’s what I found out: Yes, $2.9 million of the grant money was used to pay for technology leases ahead of schedule, saving the District $134,000. The remaining $11.5 million has been placed in the District’s Operating Reserves. Every school district is required to keep money in reserves to cover operating expenses (such as teacher salaries), should something go awry with the actual budget money coming in. In general, school districts throughout the country maintain 25-40% of their operating budget in reserve. However, due to the fact that this 2003 grant *intended for the 2003 expansion of the high schools* didn’t arrive until 2012, monies from the operating reserves have been used to cover those 2003 expenses, leaving the operating reserve underfunded. In lieu of the underfunded reserve, the District has been able to make ends meet through short-term loans. Having a need for these types of short term loans is a bit of a red flag and can hurt the district’s credit rating and impact the interest rates it can get. Depositing the $11.5 million into reserves has replenished the reserve amount to a healthy 25% and returns the district to a preferred financial position. Before initiating a 'conspiracy,' perhaps some simple fact-finding is in order.
Mark Stern February 02, 2013 at 09:06 PM
First, thanks for actually posting something responsive to the story. But your points are way off. The district borrowed the entire $72 million for the high school project by issuing bonds, and claims that the 2003 high school project came in under budget. So the high school projects had NO impact on the District's "reserves". Lee, here's your fact finding. You say the District is "saving" $134,000 by prepaying a lease, and avoiding having to get short term loans (tax anticipation warrants). Per the District budget (line 620), the last time it borrowed $12 million in tax warrants, the interest cost was $20,700 total. I'll even let you DOUBLE that and multiply it by the next ten years - $414,000 in interest savings. That would give you total SAVINGS of about $548,000, whereas the interest COST to borrow $14.4 million for Jefferson - using the District's numbers - would be $4,582,000. 25 TIMES MORE EXPENSE THAN SAVINGS. Does not sound like a brilliant financial strategy to me - it's like getting a cash advance on your high interest credit card so you can put more money in your savings account earning 0.1%. Don't forget, just a couple years ago the District, WITHOUT voter approval, borrowed $20 million to put into "reserves." How much to they need?
Lee February 02, 2013 at 09:08 PM
Mark Kmiecik, the numbers you present are not reasonable in any way. First and foremost, you based your calculation on a ONE YEAR amortization. The district does not need to spend $17.6M every single year to educate 250 special need children each year! Hundreds, if not thousands, of children will be educated at the new facility over decades. Further, the costs of teacher salary and benefits are irrelevant and have nothing to do with the $17.6M expenditure. The staff requirements for special need children are federally mandated by the student needs…so those are not driven by the size of the building. The district MUST provide the prescribed number of teachers according to law, based upon the number of special need students. In addition, the number of students requiring special need education is growing, year over year. During the 2011-12 school year, Jefferson capacity is 289 and each seat was filled…with an additional 59 students given the same education off-site, because there was no room available in the current Jefferson building. This year, enrollment is at 100% capacity, requiring even more students to be offsite. The district cannot legally place a maximum capacity of special need children allowed to receive an Early Childhood education, per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. And duplication of buildings, staff, transportation, and all materials/tools required to educate our special need children is an unfortunate use of taxpayer money.
Mark Kmiecik February 02, 2013 at 11:16 PM
fair enough, the one-year amortization may be a bit steep and as I said in my previous post, I was asking the rhetorical question "is this a reasonable expense"? There's no question that children need to be educated regardless of their situation and state mandates through the statement all children are entitled to a "free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment" is self evident and without question. The question that seems to be asked and I'm asking that question is there a better way of achieving the same results by spending money more efficiently for the benefit of children and taxpayers rather than for the benefit of those who view schools as a profit center.
Mark Kmiecik February 03, 2013 at 03:20 AM
For Goodwill hunting, your a sniveling coward hiding behind the name. As far as I am concerned, your unsubstantiated ad hominem attacks made about my character and person is indicative of the kind of sleazy character assassination, typical of the local Milton Township apparatchik employ when confronted with the truth of their abuse of position and power. Watch and learn with this video link for a very good overview of Milton Township governance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW1RQc5EFpU
6 Seconds in Wheaton February 03, 2013 at 06:10 PM
Mark Kmiecik obviously doesn't feel particularly restricted by the facts, truth or sources, in an effort to malign the people who will not support him. Never mind the man is completely unqualified to hold any office and let's not forget, the City of Wheaton has never elected an angry, raged-filled candidate who lacked any positive vision. Kmiecik obviously fabricated the information because there is a clear lack of sourcing or evidence. An old, cheap trick used by weak people and thinkers. Much of what Kmiecik has been presented relies heavily on inference, half truths, and self-interest, while containing little or no real facts to support his crazy positions. The real proof is, if there was even a shred of truth to his wild claims the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office would have been actively involved. I'm sure in Kmiecik's perverse mind the State's Attorney's office is in bed with Milton Township too.
Hubble Mom February 03, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Northside Debbie. I know Jan Shaw, and she is a concerned District 200 parent who has been paying attention for more than 20 years. She is neither a plant nor a "whack job" as you state. I think a reasoned discourse on this topic is the most appropriate. I find that people who resort to libel and personal attacks, actually do not have anything substantive to say about an issue. I think that citizens in a free country are allowed to ask questions of their elected candidates. That is what I was taught at public school, Northside Debbie.
Mark Kmiecik February 04, 2013 at 12:27 AM
Another cowardly slander monger from team Milton . Read my proof Mr six seconds, I sit on reams of this, you only have malicious slander and liable for your response. Start here http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/blog/whats-the-matter-with-milton-township-ii-supervisor-chris-heidorns-employee-ralph-hinkle/ Go here http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/wp-content/uploads/Hampton-Inn-Hinkle-Charge-Macomb.jpg then read this http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/wp-content/uploads/Public-Funds-for-Public-Purposes-Law.jpg It should be noted, unlike the Milton apparatchiks, I have gotten zero gain in any of my political involvement, have not held any office, but the Milton Slander club is going after me, due to the courage of my conviction that Government should be run for the benefit of the people and not for the benefit of those who are the insiders. http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/wp-content/uploads/Milton-Heidorn-6-22-2012-FOIA-Response.pdf
Hook and Ladder February 04, 2013 at 05:15 PM
This is the same Mark Kmieck while running for Wheaton City Council stated the Wheaton Fire Department had too much equipment. In Kmieck's infinite ignorance he want to reduce the FD's emergency response equipment by 40%. I tell you this just for background because during his campaign, Kmieck took direct aim at the Fire Department and was very hostile and combative to anyone who would not agree with his bizarre positions. I find this comment by Kmieck very troublesome, yet it gives us clear insight into what Kmieck thinks he is intitled too. I have gotten zero gain in any of my political involvement -- Mark Kmieck That statement says it all about Kmieck, his involvement isn't about helping or serving the public, it's all about what Kmieck can "gain." Now we know why Kmieck is such an angry person. The public servants, the City of Wheaton, and Milton Township see him for what he is, a self-concerned individual who thinks he's owed something. The fine elected officials and public servants we have now to it for the love of the people, Kmieck does it for himself. Good Luck Kmieck, keep attacking the organizations and public servants that make our community great, the people see you for you really are.
Mark Kmiecik February 04, 2013 at 08:01 PM
More slander and liars from the Milton apparatchik cowards, The constant haranguing and political ad hominem attack does not change the facts I have been posting. My proof is right before your eyes if the honest person cares to look at it. Ghost payrolling, http://www.markkmiecik.com/attachments/File/Heidorn_response_to_AA_FOIA_6-22-2012_%282%29.pdf http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/wp-content/uploads/Milton-Township-FOIA-Response-04092012.jpg http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/wp-content/uploads/Heidorn-to-Hinkle-employment-memo-1-15-10.pdf http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/blog/whats-the-matter-with-milton-township/ http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/blog/whats-the-matter-with-milton-township-supervisor-chris-heidorn-fourth-report/ paid junkets, http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/blog/whats-the-matter-with-milton-township-ii-supervisor-chris-heidorns-employee-ralph-hinkle/ 3 days luxury accommodations and fine dining for six hour cert conference. http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/wp-content/uploads/Hinkle-Credit-Card-Charges-ICC-Springfield-Sept-2011.jpg http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/wp-content/uploads/Agenda-2011-Illinois-Citizen-Corps-Council-Workshop.pdf I challenge anyone go here and read. http://forthegoodofillinoispac.com/category/blog/milton/ or my web site. http://www.markkmiecik.com/OpenLetterMilton.php and learn the truth.
Barry Lyndon February 05, 2013 at 04:22 PM
Boy if Kmeick isn't the pot calling the kettle black, clearly Kmeick doesn't know the definition of "ad hominem" because he is the king of ad hominem attacks. Kmeick displays classic symptoms of paranoid personality disorder. A mental disorder characterized by paranoia and a pervasive, long-standing suspiciousness and generalized mistrust of others. Individuals with this personality disorder may be hypersensitive, easily feel slighted, and habitually relate to the world by vigilant looking for clues or suggestions that may validate their fears or biases. They think they are in danger and look for signs and threats of that danger, not appreciating other evidence. This is why he continues to attack Jeanne Ives and Milton Township because his candidates lost. I'm sure Chris Hauge just cringed the day Kmeick showed up to volunteer at his campaign headquarters. Kmeick would be wise to get out of politics, he will never be a credible candidate nor will he ever be accepted by the mainstream leadership given his extreme positions and hostility towards others. Kmeick should work on his social dysfunction, if he did that, he'd stop seeing devils and demons in every shadow and he become a much happier person.
Mark Kmiecik February 05, 2013 at 11:03 PM
"An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man"), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an argument made personally against an opponent instead of against their argument." http://www.foolquest.com/fooltrek_faq/adhomenin.jpg (For Gary, Chris, Sal, Maria, Marty, Mr. & Mrs Hinkle
Mike March 21, 2013 at 07:19 PM
Transparency has been a major problem in this district for the last decade. I will not be voting for any projects these knuckle heads dream up until they can be forthcoming with their finances. At a meeting I attended back in the fall, the super indent said to me the district “found some more money they didn’t know about” which could help finance the school. So I asked him point-blank, “Well, that sounds good, but as people know money doesn’t generally appear out of thin air. Where did you find this money?” His answer? “Oh we just came across it recently. Something we were unaware we had.” Is that anyway to address a concerned taxpayer? What exactly is he hiding? So I did some research. While I did not uncover what he was talking about back in August 2012, I did find many articles discussing the misuse of financial resources in district 200. If only 1% of what I read is true, I am disgusted and will not be voting for any projects until I can understand EXACTLY how the money will be used and EXACTLY where it is coming from. Too bad a bunch of baboons are running the school district.

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