Note: a Q&A on the tax referendum, by Andy Dance, is posted here.
Dear Flagler County Voters:
I spent the past few weeks talking to residents about the half mill referendum. It is during these one-on-one discussions that I learn the most about the true perception of the school district in the community. It is apparent from these discussions and many of the comments I read online, that there are strong feelings working against the district due to the “need” for a special election and the cost of the special election. I knew this would be a tough sell from the beginning, and I fully understand the sentiment. However, I want the public to decide based on factual information. There is a lot of misinformation circulating in the community, and I want to take a moment to add some clarity.
You know my stance on this issue. It has been written about it and it is public record as part of the board meeting minutes. In my opinion, if we needed the money to protect critical services, the extension was a more reasonable request, and my vote was against the additional tax, not against a continuation.
Please know that the Board is extremely thankful for the prior support for education in this County, as evident by the extension of the .25 Mill two years ago and the extension of the ½ Penny sales tax this past election. Flagler County has a proud history of supporting education. My fear was that the goodwill and trust that was extended to us by the voters would evaporate quickly by asking for additional funds in a special election and a tax increase to boot. I hope that we can look past the negativity surrounding the special election process, and look to the needs of the District that are real and immediate.
So yes, the Board voted to proceed with the half mill referendum (an extension of the existing .25 levy and a new .25 levy). That board vote is in the past, and we move on. We now have two options…voting for the half mill or voting against the half mill. Based on these options, I will vote for the half mill, and I ask those that are on the fence or are leaning “no” to reconsider.
I realize no matter what, some are firm in their opinions, and I respect that. I feel it is my responsibility as a board member to lay out the facts and answer your questions, and my hope is that I will have adequately made a case for the half mill so that you will also vote in the affirmative.
I will choose to keep this explanation positive. The positive accomplishments of the District and our students speak volumes. These positive accomplishments have occurred in spite of year after year revenue reductions and accompanying spending cuts. Every year that I have been on the board, we’ve experienced reduced revenues due to the recession. In response, we have reduced expenses across all areas, just like you have done in your household. The one aspect of the recession that has been positive has been the mandate to evaluate all programs, positions and expenditures for waste and their impact on student performance. Many “hard choices” have been made to get to where we are. We have to balance our budget annually, as we are required to balance it every year by law.
How have we been able to accomplish positive results in an atmosphere of continued reductions in education spending and in a community that has had the highest unemployment in the state? I believe it is thanks to the support of our community. In spite of our economic struggles, Flagler County supports its schools and demands the best from its school leadership. In spite of our challenges, our schools have been performing at a high standard.
A recent renewal of our AdvancED accreditation provided insight into the many positives that are going on in Flagler Schools. Flaglerlive.com recently wrote about this renewal, stating…“Griffin (George Griffin, the Chair of the accreditation team) said he expected to hear excuses of why things were not done anymore, in light of budget cuts. He didn’t hear such excuses. Rather, every dollar was put to the benefit of students in the form of reading teachers, electives, art and music education and various types of academic coaches, all of which have been cut in many other districts. “I have enough comparisons to know when I say these things, I don’t make them up,” Griffin said. It was warming to hear an independent education expert acknowledge that we were doing everything we could to spare the classroom, and find other ways to trim the budget.
Recently, the district also received good news when a national news magazine, US News & World Report, revealed that our two high schools were the only area high schools to be ranked by the magazine for educational excellence. Matanzas High school was ranked in the top 7 percent of schools nationally and Flagler Palm Coast was ranked in the top 11 percent. Flaglerlive.com reported on this achievement as well. Both schools earned “Silver Medal” recognition; an honor reserved for only schools in the top 2,290 (11 percent) in the nation.
The District is on the right track. We are prioritizing properly and results are backing this up. We balance our budgets every year and we keep a satisfactory reserve balance. We have received outstanding audits and we are transparent with our financials. We have a dedicated “transparency” page on the website to back this up, with a prominent link on the home page.
This referendum discussion should be about continuing the progress we have made as a District. It should be about whether existing programs are worth continuing and the items that are being presented on the referendum are important enough to be funded by the added .25 Mill for the next school year. The District has been clear with these priorities since the referendum language was adopted by the board. If the ½ Mill is approved, we will:
- Add 45 minutes back to the school day
- Bring back SRO’s to the elementary schools, as they were before the recession hit.
- Enhance the security of our physical school campuses
- Provide additional mental health services for students
- Protect the arts in education
Voting for this referendum and for the 45 minutes of added instructional time is critical for our students as they face the rigor of the new Common Core standards that will be implemented in 2015. If we are to continue to outperform our demographics, this extra instructional time is crucial and sorely needed.
An important consideration for the passing the referendum is the additional flexibility these funds give the district. Without the additional funds, the District will be removing another 1.7 million dollars from our reserve fund, and by the end of next year, our reserves will be at 5% (the bottom of our Board “safe” range). This is not a sustainable path and gives us no wiggle room to accommodate unforeseen challenges down the road. Programs and services that we were able to save this year will not be as lucky next year.
The additional funds allow us the time to see if the current 8 month trend in reduced enrollment is a temporary adjustment or a long term problem. Currently, the loss of enrollment adds pressure for the Board to consider school closures. With the disruption to families, staff and the community that accompanies a school closure, we need to make sure we get this right. If the enrollment trend stops and becomes just a short term drop, approval of the referendum allows us a little more time to see if enrollment will stabilize and allow student population to naturally increase again as the economy continues to improve.
In conclusion, my hope is that the community will support the school district by approving this temporary four year property tax levy to protect and enhance education for all our students. Approval will protect current programs and educational priorities that are proving successful and leading to academic progress in our schools. Approval will add 45 minutes of instructional time back to the middle and high schools, adding School Resource Officers at all elementary schools and increasing school safety infrastructure at all school campuses. In my opinion, failure to pass this referendum could negatively impact education in Flagler County for the next few years, even beyond the four years of revenue that we would not collect the levy. It will take us many years to recapture the momentum we currently have. Pass this referendum on June 7th and continue the current positive momentum of student success in Flagler County. The community will reap the rewards for continued educational excellence from our public school system.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.
Andy Dance has been a Flagler County School Board member since 2008 and is its current chairman. Reach him by email here, and read his extensive Q&A on the issue here.
NO! And Hell NO! This county wastes more money and then wants the tax payers to foot the bill. We can not pay anymore! We are struggling day to day with the things we have to pay for IE: Gas, Mortgage, Electric, Water, FOOD, car payments, TAXES, Etc… This county pays too much for admin and not enough for the work force! How about all the Admin take a 40 % cut in pay? They are useless anyway! This has become a joke in this county! Every time they run short, They want more taxes to pay the bills they created!
I say fire ALL the admin and start fresh! There are people out there that would work for half what they are paid and do a better job!
Mr. Dance –
I applaud your efforts to bring transparency to the School Board and the District; however, the approach to the entire process is that which has folks up in arms. I agree with you when you say the smarter approach would have been to seek a simple entension of the exisiting .25 levy and also provide additional cuts. Yes, the students have flourished in spite of the cuts already realized; but, I would submit they are capable of meeting the additional challenges such as the ones discussed in recent meetings. When revenues are down, regardless of why, real cuts are essential if the School District is to have any credibility with the voters when seeking not only an extension; but, additional taxes. That is not what has happened to date.
A Special Election has been called which is expected to cost between $80 – $100 k. This issue should have been on the General Election ballot for two reasons. One, the decision sought would have been made by the majority of voters, rather than a minority, as is seen with a Special Election. Second, the School Board would have had a better understanding of its budget without relying on a school shooting tragedy to manipulate voters. Those seeking election last year would have also been asked to justify the need for the additional money to the voters.
Just look at the Special Election signs ordered by the SOE! For the most part, the content is barely visible. How much did those cost and how will they be able to be re-used? Regardless of the entity footing the bill, School Board, BOCC, or the SOE, we the taxpayers are paying for a Special Election that will yield a low voter turnout. The School Board had an opportunity to demonstrate a sense of responsibility for the cost when the SOE presented the option of an all-mail election process. Not only was this turned down; the election was moved from a normal Tuesday to a Friday. The all-mail election is a process many counties and cities use for such referendums.A ballot is mailed to all registered voters. Neither early voting nor precinct expenses are incurred when this option is selected. When the SOE pointed out the costs the response, from the BOCC, and I suspect the School Board was ‘we, the BOCC are paying for it so it doesn’t matter’. That is a rather arrogant attitude to have when asking for more money.
Another issue, in my opinion, is that of the manipulation by certain School Board members and the use of public funds. The signs lining the parent/student pick-up drives at all of the schools are a wonderful example. IMO, they violate F.S. 106.113(2) and DOE Advisory Opinions #10-06 and #12-05; yet, when brought to the attention of the School District’s attorney, there is an atmosphere of we don’t care and as long as the signs do not include the “magic words” from Buckley v. Valeo, then laws haven’t been violated. The issue has been framed so that anyone who dares to voice criticism is somehow anti-education and anti-children. The use of Sandy Hook as the “game changer”, when it has been admitted that all the security measures in place at Sandy Hook would not have stopped Adam Lanza, is the ultimate in manipulation. By immediately looking to go to the well and draw out more taxes, possible outside of the box ideas and inviting the private sector to address some of these concerns were never even considered.
While I respect your decision to support the referendum, IMO, it is time for government entities to take a closer look in the mirror, and make those harder decisions. Balancing the budget is admirable and appreciated; but, as the most recent meetings have demonstrated, there are more cuts that can be made and our students and parents have the intelligence and the capacity to still reach the goals achieved to date. Our parents and grandparents were able to do more with less and quite honestly it is time for this
generation to learn those same lessons.
This time I have to totally agree with the above voters comments. The rejection of the money saving suggestion from our SOE Weeks to vote this referendum by mail, tells us how careless the members we elect to represent us with a pay, are while wasting our hard earned taxes. Mr. Dance half my home taxes are for schools and your compensation already.
Its not about all the issues that are stated above kmedley, its about the kids and education, if you don’t like what choices the board members are making, then that is for a whole other election, because this one is for the kids, they have it tough enough in this lousy economy and need every break they can get, period!
I am voting yes, the kids deserve it, sour grapes against board members is for another time and place!!!
We the taxpayers are going to vote yes because we are tired of a few people throwing the term we the taxpayer around all the time in an attempt to forward their agenda.
Cut administrators’ salary 40%???? So administrators would be paid less than the workers? In the real world those with more responsibilities (administrators) get paid more. Why do you say administrators are worthless?
What are the estimates of costs for infrastructure changes needed to provide secure campuses?
Gee…If they took a 40% cut in pay…They still are making more than the teachers that have not had a pay raise in how many years?
Teachers receive a pay raise every single year they are employed, actually.
Not true. They are often frozen. There have been several recent years where teachers did not receive their step raise.
This is not true, i have been working 5 years with the schools, and i have not receive one cent in rise. Vote yes.
Slap Me says
I can’t in my conscience vote yes. Too much unanswered questions and chicanery by the school board and Supt Valentine. Either she’s incompetent or I’m seeing smoke and mirrors.
I voted no.
from public school teacher John Taylor Gatto of New York.
School is a religion. Without understanding the holy mission aspect you’re certain to misperceive what takes place as a result of human stupidity or venality or even class warfare. All are present in the equation, it’s just that none of these matter very much—even without them school would move in the same direction. Dewey’s Pedagogic Creed statement of 1897 gives you a clue to the zeitgeist:
Every teacher should realize he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of the proper social order and the securing of the right social growth. In this way the teacher is always the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of heaven.
What is “proper” social order? What does “right” social growth look like? If you don’t know you’re like me, not like John Dewey who did, or the Rockefellers, his patrons, who did, too.
The public schools system denies free speech, torments children, and sets a new standard of morality that is immoral. Read the book.
Time for some new board members!!!!!!!!
My vote will be Yes because I know thing’s are going to worse for everyone in the years to come if this tax does not pass in one way or another , That does not mean I am happy about it !
NO> IT”S NOT WORKING AT ALL>NO>>NO>>NO WAY
Brad W says
I think the world of you, and I think you are the best person to be on our Board. I understand why you have to ask for this, but I will be voting “NO”.
First of all, the Board Member who took the point on this has been a huge disappointment. I was at her meeting, I have met with both of you, and I asked logical questions. I have not received answers. For example, why couldn’t anyone say that the $2M+ 45 minutes was to hire 40 more teachers. AND the reason for those 40 teachers is because of a union stipulation in the contract limiting teachers to 25 hours of “student contact time” per week. If that piece would have been renegotiated and the teachers give just a little (their sacrifice for our students) we would have never lost the 45 minutes in the first place. So, in my opinion, we can do without the 45 minutes and the parents should take that up directly with the teachers and the union. IF we are going to provide $2M towards anything it should be to actually educate and NOT accommodate some absurd union contract stipulation. Shame on them.
Also through this process, you all have revealed that you have been expensing $10,000/year to give out an award? That is our money and should have never been used in that way! That is in no way shape or form “for the kids”. Likewise, we should not be spending unnecessarily to send graduations out of County.
Our Schools have shown they want us as homeonwers to sacrifice even more than we already have and are sacrificing every day at the pump, in the grocery store, etc. BUT our schools, teachers, and their union are not willing to sacrifice. To me . . . all of this is extremely shameful. The parents and this community have every right to be outraged.
Let’s get rid of all the administrative fat so the children can learn
Voting no is only going to hurt our students. It’s not going to teach the board a lesson. Please vote YES!!!!
Sailor's Choice says
The Supervisor of Elections has done a fantastic job advertising this special election, and I thank her for that.. Everywhere I look there is notice of an election. If you dont vote in this special election, it won’t be because you didn’t know about it. Advertising of any kind is not reusable, and is costly.
Sailor’s Choice –
The SOE’s office has many signs that are re-used for each election. Sadly, the yellow and black School Board signs will not be added to that inventory. Additionally, the content is barely large enough to be seen, much less read.
Realty Check says
Your tear jerking letter above is a politicians dream come true, listen to your use of all the right words to pull at the hear strings of people. The simple fact is you and the rest of the members refuse to live with in your means, you are looking for money so you do not need to commit political suicide and possibly not be re-elected. Instead of spending over 80K on a special election, you should have brought in an outside forensic accountant to trim the fat in the administration that we all know is there. I have asked publically why a district this size needs an assistant superintendent, this is a six figure job that is no way is needed. When you are truly ready to trim the fat and make the insiders (administration) angry by the real cuts you propose give me a call. I can tell you that you need to stay in politics because you would be terminated from any private sector job for non performance. On a personal note it has been 6 months since I emailed you and the rest of the board, you were the only one to reply and said “let me look into it” that was 6 months ago, thanks for the effort.
Palm Coast Resident says
Not only NO, but hell NO!!!
Think About it says
Just vote NO, enough said…Find your money elsewhere… Give me, give me, give me………..sounds like a kid nagging his parents to GIVE himn/her something…
Voting NO is going to force the school administrators and the current school board to really cut the administrative fat…not our students education. The current and former school boards have been just a rubber stamp for administrators greedy abuses demanding more taxes to no end from a community riddle with unemployment sustaining itself with 20,000 or 30,000/year typical family income while forced to pay these administrative whales over six figure compensations plus benefits. Where is the Tea Party on this one? Remember well, when the next School Board election comes around. Typical we elect them in good faith and they all turn around forget their promises and become rubber stamps.
My vote is no
Donna Heiss says
Just say NO! Do it with your vote.This is no surprise that a special election is being held at this time. Many residents have a second home, but are residents of Flagler County. The timing of the election is to make sure most of the NO votes are un-aware and away at their second home.
Too sneaky for me. Absolutely NO!
I can say for sure not anyone of those folks making a comment here even went to a workshop.
All you people complaining how the change in the board is going to make a difference is to say the least foolish. These folks on the board took this seriously and focused on real changes and cuts.
They are simply sayng and appealing to us all to VOTE YES.
YES it is as simple as that!!!
Thank you School board members for your hard work and don’t let the nasty disrespectful comment bother you as you do know what trully is your own convictions………………PJ
Realty Check says
@ PJ, Sorry but you can defend them all you like, they suffer from poor job performance, plain and simple, yes I also attend city & county council meeting. My comments are backed by my civic duty to attend these meetings; I see useless cuts that avoid political suicide and nothing more, over compensated administration and too many positions that are favors. I have asked repeatedly about the assistant superintendent, this should have been one of the first cuts; actually it should have never been created in a district this size. I choose to pull my child out and pay for private school, not all parents have that choice due to cost and transportation to and from school. I have seen first hand the poor management and decision making skills of our leaders, and I for one am tired of the lazy politics in this county.
I keep seeing people throw around the cut the administrators 6 figure salaries. I think the superintendent and the assistant superintendent make 6 figure salaries, but I don’t believe the school administrators do. Honestly, it appears there are a few vocal people who really don’t know what they are talking about.
Isn’t $96,878.00 close enough? And that was for only one principal in 2010. I didn’t look up any more, didn’t want to get more aggravated. Go to the Daytona beach news Journal, scroll down to the bottom and look for “public salary database” and you can look up everyone’s salaries for yourself. Have fun
Before we start asking people in this county for .25 mill. let’s look at some of the current spending i.e. IPADS. I recently attended a meeting a Bunnell Elementry for IPAD for my 5th grader. Why did this county see anything good in putting a piece of equipment in front of our children that has caused this generation to become lazy, and disrespectful? No good can come of this county thinking this is the waive of the future. No good can come from putting yet another device in our childrens faces where social media has become so dangerous, pedophiles while they are online, social bullying, cyber stalking, the list goes on and on. Not only the added responsibilty with where the IPAD is, is it plugged in, did you leave it somewhere, where did you leave it. Some people just don’t think! That was spending that was total unneccasary, TOTALLY!!!Get your heads out of your butts and stop trying to pass the buck (pun intended) My vote will be NO,NO,NO. I work my tail off just to provide shelter, food, and clothing for my kids these are bare minimum to survive these days, how dare you ask Homeowners to foot the bill yet again, we are struggling and starving already. If this gets passed I will do everything in my power to move from this once believed paradise of a town, and give my all to get every family member I have out of here. Bad Form Ladies and Gentleman BAD FORM, Shame on you for even considering this would be positive, Shame on you for thinking someone that makes $13.37 as a home owner could afford this, Shame on you for thinking because you can afford it others can. Shame on you for trying to spend MY MONEY. Shame on you all
1 last food for thought, Some people may have voted yes, had we not make this county spend every extra dime they had on UNIFORMS. Kids got disreectful, Teachers got lazy, buck passed AGAIN.
So Mr Dance, you were against it but now you’re for it? Hmmm…so that’s how it works.
Mr Dance, can you justify a $30,000 a year salary for a school board member? May I add that this district has one of the highest paid salaries for school board members YET, it is among the poorest district in the state of Florida. Aside from this very high salary for such a very poor district, school board members also get a lot of side perks – in the form of no bid contracts / side businesses/ financial gain for swaying decisions and contracts to businesses willing to pay for the access.
Sorry, I cannot afford to buy a cup of coffee for even $1.00. I buy a 12/16oz pack of coffee in the store for around $4.00 and make my own coffee – one pack lasts an entire month. I gave up the flavored creamer – my weakness – that I used to enjoy with my coffee since it now cost as much as a gallon of milk. And asking me to give up my $4.00 pack of coffee which last me an entire month so that you folks can enjoy your $30,000 a years salary for doing practically nothing / welfare, is an insult to my sense of what’s fair and just.
In addition, what also galls me is the fact that many, many, many homeowners are underwater – meaning their mortgage payments are much more than what their homes are currently worth. And rather than receive a break for staying in their homes and putting up with this injustice, you people have the nerve to ask them to pay more taxes on their already overpriced homes and underwater mortgages. If the real market value were assessed to properties instead of the manipulated assessments, the taxes received would be much less and you would have a lot less to spend.
Here is some budget advice that our family used when had to redo our budget to fit with our current living expenses. We first went after the BIG TICKET ITEMS and worked our way down. This is how we started in order:
We went to 1 car though both cars were paid off. The insurance, maintenance, gas were too costly.
We cut our cable bill to the bare basic
We reduced eating out / take out
We cut back on our high-brow food purchases – seafood, lamb, potato bread, and ABC beverages
We cut back on clothes purchase and other unnecessary stuff, and cut back on the price point spent on gift giving for birthdays/ holidays.
And you know what? We’re making do. We now appreciate and value what we have and what we are able to do because of the care and effort we have to put into making these selections.
I am being taxed up the wazoo!
NO to new taxes! and,
NO to my wazoo!
The school board members need not collect a salary. Taxpayers vote them which mean s it is an elected position and it should be voluntary not a paid postion.
Greed and Fear Are Two Sides of the Same Coin
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines greed as simply “… a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed.” Greed is often referenced as one of the main contributors to trading loss.
This is about the education of our young people! Stop being selfish! Vote YES!