Thursday, August 26, 2010

SCHOOL BOARD BLUNDER: One Day Notice for Tax Hike Hearing

COLUMBIA, 8/26/10  (Beat Byte) --  Surprise! 
With less than one day's notice for public input, the Columbia Public School Board this morning unanimously approved the highest tax hike in recent years legally-allowed without a district-wide vote. 
Their meeting started at 7:30 am and the Missourian reported the news only 45 minutes later.   As of press time yesterday afternoon, only school district financial director Linda Quinley (below) and superintendent Chris Belcher (left) had issued public opinions on the levy increase. 
Given the lack of timely notice -- the district issued a press release announcing this morning's public hearing less than 24 hours before the meeting -- it was a move in the secretive mode of former Columbia Public Schools (CPS) superintendent Phyllis Chase that could wound a sore public trust Belcher had been doing his earnest best to heal. 
What's more, School Board members normally meet on Monday evenings.   Special morning meetings, though they invite public comment, aren't nearly as well-attended, well-advertised, or well-covered in the media.  
Into just the first week of school, and right as the school day started, to convene a meeting of such public importance sends a troubling mixed message.  On the one hand, the school district greatly encourages parental involvement, engaged teachers, and thoughtful students.   
But with this move, top district administrators and School Board members flatly discouraged thoughtful, engaged involvement.   Shame on them for essentially circumventing the community's most important voices -- its people. 


Last two school board meetings (June)


  1. I find it difficult to care about this one... we vote these people in and out so that they can make the financial and other decisions.

    All of the comments that could have been made have been made a thousand times. Whether it's the Henry Lane's of the world complaining that they have to pay any taxes at all or those who think all ills can be cured by throwing more money at it, we've heard the comments.

    The economic reality is that it costs more now for the schools to operate and the budget has already been reviewed publicly many times.

    The administration has committed now foul... they did something legal and within their discretion.

    Move along... nothing to see here...


  2. Now there's some good thinking! Leave everything to the people we've voted in to make the financial and other decisions.

    (Anyone heard how well the US Congress is doing these days?)

    After all, why bother participating or even having public meetings? We've already heard everything we need to hear from the idiot general public anyway.

  3. I don't have a URL so I said I was anonymous, but I am responding as President of the Columbia Board of Education.

    Dear Mike,

    As a reader of Mike Martin’s Beat Byte, I want to take a moment to clarify information that was written today under the heading “School Board Blunder”

    The following avenues were used to inform the public of the August 26, 2010, tax levy hearing.
    • Beginning as early as June 14, 2010, the tax levy hearing was announced during Board of Education meetings and appeared on the board agenda under announcements. Board meetings air on CPS-TV and these announcements were included in that programming.
    • On August 16, 2010, advertisement of a Tax Levy 101 informational session and the tax levy rate hearing were posted on the district web site under the heading “News You Can Use”.
    • Media outlets were notified on August 16, 23 and again on August 25, 2010.
    • Additional communication was posted in the Key News electronic newsletter on the first day of school, August 19, to all subscribers.
    • The Tax Levy 101 informational session aired on CPS-TV beginning August 24, 2010, and is currently available on the district’s Web site.
    • The most important posting was the requirement per BOE Policy DC, to post at least 7 days prior to the hearing. This requirement was fulfilled.
    • An ad ran in the Columbia Daily Tribune and the Missourian August 18, 2010, entitled “Notice – Columbia Public School District” announcing the public hearing with financial information required by law.
    • Meeting notices are sent out with packets in accordance with Sunshine law prior to all BOE meetings.

    The board meets twice monthly: our regular meeting is the second Monday evening of each month at the Board of Education Building. The Monday evening meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. (new time from our previous 7:00 p.m. start time)

    The board holds a work session at 7:30 a.m. on the Thursday 10 days after the 2nd Monday regular meeting. Since there was no regular meeting of the Board on Education in August on the 2nd Monday, the morning work session was set for today, August 26, 2010, due to the need to accumulate as much financial information for the board as close to our annual September 1 deadline to file the tax levy rate with county government.

    Public comment time is offered at the beginning of each regular meeting of the board AND whenever there is an action item on either the work session or regular session agenda.

    Public opinions about the tax levy from Dr. Belcher and Ms. Quinley were the only ones presented in the media because, to my knowledge, if other board members or administrators were interviewed or asked to comment, there comments were not included in the media.

    The tax levy rate set today is $4.1180. The rate in 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 was $4.1425. In 2005-2007 the district decreased the tax rate. The new rate will help stabilize our budget.

    Please share this update with corrected information with all of your subscribers who received your publication today. If I can be of further assistance to you or your readers, feel free to contact me.

    Thank you Mike!

    Jan Mees, President
    Columbia Board of Education

  4. Anonymous... we've elected them for a reason. Let them do their job. Don't stick your head in the sand... if they do a bad job THEN throw a fit and vote them out. Do NOT micro-manage them... if you can do a better job then step up and quit arm-chair quarterbacking.