Monday, February 14, 2011
Our new school superintendent should put a moratorium on any new Walla Walla School District bonds for at least five years. Maybe time will restore trust in our school administration under new leadership.
The Edison excess-money fiasco and statements in the 2006 bond advertisements that showed maintenance had been neglected in our schools caused much distrust.
Let's review School Board activities that will show our school superintendent reasons for distrust.
In 2006 we overwhelmingly rejected a huge bond that included a new Wa-Hi, new Edison school and a new support services facility.
After public input, the School Board, in late 2006, decided Edison School alone had a good chance of success. A bond was proposed and passed for Edison for over $19 million, plus $3.4 million state matching dollars, which in total was almost double the allocated amount for Edison in the earlier 2006 bond election.
We later learned the Edison bond, together with the state matching dollars, was inflated at least $5 million with the apparent purpose to use the excess dollars elsewhere without taxpayers' approval.
We also learned that other school bonds in the past were likewise inflated and the excess money diverted elsewhere.
When Edison's state matching dollars became available the School Board used that money to build the support services facility (the facility rejected by the voters in 2006) without an authorizing vote from the taxpayers.
The School Board sold the Park Street support services facility to the YMCA for about $900,000. Washington state law (Statute 28A.335.120) requires that excess school property, valued at more than $70,000, must be sold by taking bids from interested parties.
I don't recall this mandated bidding opportunity being advertised. To the contrary; part of a full-page ad in the U-B, dated March 2, 2006, says, "In a separate action, the Walla Walla School Board has granted the Y a first right of refusal on the purchase of the support services site across Park Street from the Y's center."
Who would bid on property when they know the YMCA only needs to match their price to buy? Was state Statute 28A.335.120 lawfully followed? I think not.
When the excess $1.6 million from the Edison bond was publicized, many believed it should be returned to the taxpayers through bond reduction. The School Board refused this request.
Mr. Superintendent, give us transparent, above-board leadership.