Recent revelations about high-interest, long term financing of a school bond measure by the Poway Unified School District cannot have escaped the attention of a single school official in San Diego, the state of California, or nationwide for that matter. Citizens are outraged and sounding off. Watchdog groups are calling for reforms that would prevent this type of financing scheme on future bond measures.
But it appears San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Bill Kowba isn’t too concerned about that pesky fine print. On Tuesday, KGTV 10 News investigative reporter Mitch Blacher interviewed Kowba about the District’s $2.8 billion Proposition Z school bond measure, which will be on the November ballot.
You might expect Kowba to be full of reassurances that San Diego Unified would never do such a thing. But instead, Blacher had to repeatedly question Kowba regarding the financing of the proposed bond. Finally the Superintendent shockingly confessed: “We don’t have a financial plan built looking out into the future.”
The San Diego County Taxpayers Association points out that nothing in Proposition Z prevents the District from taking on the exact same type of high interest debt employed by the Poway Unified School District, which could triple Proposition Z’s cost for taxpayers. Sadly, the District is already using and abusing this type of high-interest financing right now. It was recently reported that San Diego Unified issued a $164 million bond that will cost District taxpayers over $1 billion.
Shouldn’t the District finish the projects promised to voters just four short years ago when it raised San Diego property taxes by $2.1 billion under Proposition S before asking for more money? The District has spent less than 25 percent from the last bond. But it’s back for more, another $2.8 billion more to be exact. And shouldn’t the voters know what the heck they are being obligated to pay ahead of time? It’s like signing a mortgage loan agreement without knowing the terms in advance.
I’m hard pressed to decide whether Kowba and school officials are naive, arrogant or dense. None of them are attractive qualities in school system leadership.
The San Diego County Taxpayers Association urges a NO vote on Proposition Z. SDCTA has also issued additional ballot measure recommendations.
DISCLOSURE: The San Diego County Taxpayers Association is a client of my public relations consulting firm, Falcon Valley Group. SDCTA did not have input or give direction as to the composition of this column.