There seems to be a lot of indecision at the fire district over how much they absolutely must have in new capital revenue.
An all-over-the-map approach to accountable and open government.
On the April ballot was a bond for $53.7 million which the district described as ‘absolutely essential to the safety of the citizens’ of the district.
We were repeatedly told there was not one dollar that could be cut without jeopardizing the safety of the firefighters, the reliability of the equipment or prevent catastrophic failure of the fire stations.
And after getting within 407 votes of passing, on a bond they under represented and undersold the importance of, rushed back into special meetings to, not come forward with a better sales pitch and get it passed, but rather to distrust their capabilities and tell the voters they don’t trust them.
Let’s set aside for a moment that none of these conditions suddenly appeared, they were all clearly known to the district for years while leadership simply kicked them down the road as precious dollars were spent on non-essential expenses.
So I, and every single person I spoke with about the failure of the bond, were struck by a glaring diversion.
Why, if the absolute minimum needed was $53.7 million, could the district possibly sell the voters a reduced cost package with the upcoming proposed $39 million bond? Not withstanding that $39 million sounds like a bargain compared to say even $40 million.
To refresh my memory, I opened the proposed 2015 budget that the district sent me in November of 2014. And right there on page 38 is a wondrously pleasant surprise.
Apparently the district did not really need $53.7 million after all.
By all forecasts, it is a made up number to overpay for everything they say they need.
On page 38, the district proposed putting a $45.3 million bond on the ballot.
So where and why did they think springing a $53.7 million dollar bond would be acceptable?
Remember at the debates when I said I was solely responsible for the greatest number of public records requests to SKF&R? And said the reason was because the district does not want you to know what is going on? The ONLY way to find out what is going on is to go to the meetings, listen to the spoken word, and then request the associated material.
Being told by ‘leadership’ what to say or reading abbreviated minutes report gets not even a tithe of the truth.
The 2015 budget was approved on October 28, 2014, with Commissioner Mark Freitas voting NEA, but the district is keeping the details secret from the public, (unless you put in a public records request) having, as of July 11, 2015 NOT posted the budget in plain view.
And now you know why.
In October of 2014 the proposed bond was $45.3 million.
To cover all the needs addressed in the April ballot.
When the district put forth a $53.7 million dollar bond measure.
So what happened?
Well, your prudent and diligent well paid administration and elected commissioners, charged with providing the best possible service at the most efficient cost to the taxpayers, went to many secret committee meetings and finally found another $8.4 million dollar ‘need’. A nice 18% jump in spending in just a few months.
So, instead of being frugal and responsible, instead of being open and accountable, instead of demonstrating integrity over ineptitude, this ‘leadership’ team and tight group of friendly commissioners thought you would not mind a whopping $53.7 million dollar tax hike.
I am sure they merely overlooked it, but is that the type of leadership you can trust?
The administration and elected officials are so lacking integrity, basic open government practices and respect for the voters it is no wonder their bonds fail.
Oh, by the way. In secret-from-the-public meetings, guess what a few of the commissioners are cooking up now? The union contract is due for renewal this year. It will be signed, sealed and delivered prior to my taking the oath of office.
And I almost forgot. Earlier I made the bold assertion that leadership had simply kicked their new found safety bond items down the road as precious dollars were spent on non-essential expenses.
We have been hiring firefighters, read that as adding payroll, without adding stations or equipment. So the district can add extra firefighters to every fire truck and aid car. Because, although we have survived decades with a three person crew on this equipment, the firefighters put adding to their ranks above purchasing trucks on well respected and predictable schedule and far above upgrading fire stations to meet earthquake standards, which, if you believe the rhetoric, are all critical requirements needing tens of millions in tax increases now.
Or, as one person called it after reading the bond literature, If all the needs expressed in the bond are legitimate, they chose to put swelling their ranks and pockets above your safety, and above their own safety.
And because we have three commissioners that came from the ranks, and an entire administration that came from the ranks, it was an easy sell. After all, it’s not their money, is it?
They’ll just come to us, make a lot of public appearances which they are paid to attend, visit the schools on paid time, hand out stickers to your children while on the clock, pay their public relations guy to push feel good news stories and, because they call it for safety, we will again eagerly give them more money.
Are these the people you trust to choose and arrogantly endorse the next rubber stamp commissioner?
The most expensive option was chosen
By the way, mentioned in the special meeting was, if we can reduce the amount to say $39 million by sliding, again and again, some of the costs even further down the road, is it safe to assume we will come back to the voters a few years in the future for the difference of $14.7 million?
That was answered in the meeting. And the answer is NO. When the next bond measure is on the ballot, it will be for considerably higher. Several factors were mentioned. The logical one is quite frankly, costs will be higher. And the costs of putting two ballots to the voters is double the cost of one.
But also, the bond rate, which is good today, could be much higher in the future.We are told passage this year is critical to getting a good rate, and the future is unknown.
And of equal importance, it was spoken that, because we are delaying so many vital costs, we could find more things to put on the next ballot.
Indeed. If the voters approve $39 million today, why settle for a mere $15 million next time? We should at least break the $20 million threshold. And $24 million sounds like a nice number.
After all, it seems they like pulling numbers out of the air.
So, instead of working hard to take advantage of what was already on the ballot, and approved by over 57% of the voters. you leadership team decided to really take advantage of you. And make it sound so good you thank them.
Revenue at $1.50 per thousand of assessed value
Has anyone else been paying attention to the spiraling rise in the price of houses in our area? Bidding wars taking housing prices beyond anything seen here? And, unlike the mortgage industry bubble of a few years ago, this one is predicted to be very stable, not founded on interest rates but on increased population, limited houses available and an ample supply of affluent buyers.
Why this matters.
Forecasts are for property values in King County to make double digit increases for the next few years. As they have been for the past few years. With no decreases foreseeable.
And since our district is primarily funded on $1.50 per assessed property value, the fire district will see a like amount of increased revenue. Money that can be spent on exactly what this administration says we need.
So maybe, they will not be back in a few years asking for another capital bond.
Or, they will do the same thing they did, spend their new-found riches on non-essential things, continue to hold secret meetings and kick safety down the road. Until you cough up another $25 million.