No More Local Money to Schools
Fellow councilwoman Annie Black has proposed a $260,000 allocation of City of Mesquite general fund money to supplement the Clark County School District’s funding.
It has been couched as an “additional pot money allocation” above and beyond the $60,000 annual allocation we already make to the local schools. It is general fund money just like any other tax or fee other businesses pay. It is not an additional “discretionary” fund or piggy bank for those who just want more.
This amounts to $200,000 more. This is close to a quarter of a million dollar increase over what this City already gives to our local schools through CEAB (Community Education Advisory Board). For what?
We as citizens of Mesquite already pay into our school system in abundance through various taxes. CEAB should be focusing on getting the school district to give us our fair share rather than come to the City of Mesquite piggy bank and take the easy way out.
We have just finished our five-hour Strategic Planning Session with a paid consultant and developed four pillars that all five Council members and the Mayor, unanimously agreed upon for the future of Mesquite.
In order of priority they are: increased housing inventory to meet the needs of our expanding workforce; expand recreational and sports tourism offerings to grow and diversify our economy; invigorate development of a vibrant downtown area; and create new and enriched existing pipelines to create a prepared workforce.
Substantially increased funding to our schools was never mentioned once by anyone as a priority in that meeting. Now instead of focusing City energy and dollars to the four pillars we all agreed were the most important issues facing the City, we get this new idea on how to spend a significant amount of money on organizations that don’t feel they have any responsibility to account for the money they get.
The City Council has been funding the local schools for several years. Part of the deal was for CEAB and the schools to “prove up” or account for the monies we have given them. Essentially, we simply asked the school principles to prove to us they were funding the programs they said they were.
We asked them to tell the taxpayers what was actually accomplished by these programs and how, in measurable terms, did it improve the education of our students. Did it help our truancy issue? Did it improve our graduation rate? Did it help college entry test scores? Have math scores improved? Has literacy improved? What effect did giving away our citizens’ money have on our kids’ education?
They have never produced this matrix. I have personally asked for it many times and I am essentially blown off. They apparently feel that they have no responsibility to account for your money. And now they want four times more. The “prove up” was part of the original funding agreement. We are doing our part but they are not.
They have not only not told us what has happened to the money we’ve already given them, now we get this new plan. This completely ill-conceived idea has no plan for the expenditures or method of accountability to the taxpayers. They have already proved unwilling to accommodate a fairly simple request.
In addition to the four agreed upon “pillars” from the strategy session, we all agreed to let staff figure out HOW to achieve those four goals and not allow Council or Mayor to get involved in the HOW. Staff would bring back their findings for process, implementation and funding to Council for approval, disapproval or modifications.
Councilwoman Black has presented an idea that does not into one of the four pillars yet she has gone and done the HOW which we all agreed not to do. In my opinion, that is two violations of a unanimous agreement she made along with the rest of us only two council meetings ago.
Finally, I reiterate that this so called “pot money” goes into the General Fund, along with virtually all other City revenue sources for the operation of the City. Operational needs include payroll (which is increasing exponentially with our collective bargaining agreements), capital replacements (like fire trucks, ambulances, police vehicles, maintenance vehicle, general maintenance, etc.), senior center operations, rec center, etc. To the extent that any money is re-directed to this $260,000 “feel good” project, it is not available to the City to cover expenses.
Not to mention, this idea takes money away from the possible funding of the four pillars that we all agreed upon and approved two council meetings ago. This will ultimately impact funding for the desperately needed housing projects to meet the needs of our expanding workforce, new trail system funding, pickle ball courts and other sports field funding, public arts funding and downtown redevelopment.
I believe that any Council member who votes for this has completely ignored our recent agreement of priorities and renders our long-term plan irrelevant before it even has a chance of succeeding. What an awful signal this sends staff who just got clear unanimous direction from us on how to spend their staff resources as well as city financial resources.
I say no.