Slade (Slade Dillon)

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Letter to the editor

Am I the business owner? My business is registered as an LLC in the State of Missouri, but I guess that is somewhat local since I work at home. If I’m the financier, I owe myself about $31 to cover a little bit of gasoline, a $5 filing fee, and about five calls received on my cell at 10 cents a minute.

The plan for budget cuts: 1) Take an inventory. Businesses that don’t take an inventory usually have a convenient built-in excuse to go broke, so let’s make a real and meaningful attempt to determine the value of the district’s assets.

2) Construct a balance sheet. Why this is an inconceivable and foreign concept regarding a governmental entity that educates our children is beyond me. It is not impossible, and at this point, the public deserves readily available and reliable financial information.

3) Construct a comprehensive statement of cash flows with all associated operational and capital outlay costs accounted to provide an accurate cost analysis overview of each district function and facility. It would be progress if more than one or two people in this town could fully explain the location and value of district contingency funds.

4) Be inquisitive and open to constructive criticism. It doesn’t bother me at this moment that other districts currently make higher academic marks than our own, but we should find out what these other school systems are doing to achieve better overall performance ratings. And we shouldn’t ignore the things we are already doing that have been proven over time to provide measurable benefits to the entire district.

5) Self-awareness. The district doesn’t appear to consider itself a competitive entity. Parents’ choice in education of their children is more or less disregarded by the current administration and board in their decision-making process.

6) Cut out the dishonesty. If lying to the rural population was necessary to pass an unaffordable bond issue during a recession/depression, the bond issue was quite likely a terrible idea.

That’s a plan. If you have a better plan, or if you see fundamental flaws with this plan, please tell me about it. 594-3223. sladedillon@hotmail.com. 245 E 1600 Rd. I’d love to hear any and all ideas that will make this an even better place to live.

Once we know who we are, and where we stand, we could begin to look at the allocation decisions on a district level. Until a little basic groundwork is laid, there isn’t any responsible way to make the decisions necessary to make #348 the top school district in the state. I have absolutely no interest in this little town being second best to anyone.

March 31, 2011 at 4:31 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

School board position 3 candidate: Slade Dillon

I wouldn't expect you to sign your name to an anonymous post, either. Since I'm already on the record stating that closing those little, efficient, and highest performing schools appears silly in any true statistical and academic measure, here you go--Keep those schools open. I am most definitely a one-position candidate: Educate those kids without killing this wonderful community.

The fact that there is a contingent across the community that is determined by motives I cannot easily identify to close and liquidate at below market value those schools come hell or high water, I will strengthen my previous instinct to open them both.

There's an assault on the rural schools all over the county right now that stinks of collusion. I don't think it's a coincidence at all that Wak Valley is about to be shut down by Lawrence.

Everyone has to hate something. I hate the New York Yankees. But they are not my friends and neighbors, and in the end, I can certainly can respect their performance and their prerogative.

For those of you in the voting community that hate little schools that work as well as any in the state, keep right on hating if you feel that's what you need to do, but don't try to justify that hatred behind a misrepresentation of flawed statistical data as fact. Back it up, or bring a better understanding of the sources of your discontentment to the table. Or vote for someone else. I'm tired of the adults in this town I love acting like a bunch of confused teenagers when the issues facing our community are quite serious, and merit discussion and thorough consideration. If you want to vote for someone who endorses closing the best performing schools in the district, go right ahead. I'm not your guy.

How's that for courage? What's your name again? I missed it. Oh, well. My phone number's right there above. We can talk about this. Or you can email me. But I doubt it. I can't speak for anybody else, but I am totally unafraid to speak for myself, and for what I have become absolutely convinced through a whole lot of statistical research, communication, and a clear understanding of the applicable demographic data.

I'm way past fear and misguided anger dictating my decision making process. Many people are not.

March 18, 2011 at 11:02 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

School board position 3 candidate: Slade Dillon

I'm glad someone finally mentioned bankruptcy around here. It's about time, because the actions of the voters of our district buffered by ill-timed and poorly considered decisions of the current board have made this a very real possibility for #348.

We NEED an open an honest dialogue about what's going on around here. The entire bond repayment mechanism is absolutely reliant on those little schools being open and thriving. I didn't know until my district tour that the two facilities the board has elected to close still have substantial future bond and interest payments on the books. The budgeted cost of educating kids at those facilities for next year is not zero. It's infinity.

I plead with anyone that can do so to please bring some real numbers to the table that consider all revenue sources to the district, and all associated expenditures, including the capital outlay and bond obligations. One-sided accounting practices don't cut it with me anymore. I want numbers, and not imaginary ones based on little more than optimism, pessimism, fear, or anger.

I've taken the time to look at our district's current financial situation from what I believe to be a comprehensive perspective, and the decisions to reallocate resources are quite simply preferences. That these preferences are tremendously shortsighted and fiscally irresponsible will be lost on any who don't care to take the time to investigate the fiscal and educational effectiveness of the district's assets.

I hope you enjoy your stay here this week. Baldwin City is a fantastic place. That's why if I can afford to do so, I'll very likely be here my whole life.

March 18, 2011 at 7:49 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

School board hears BHS girls soccer program proposal

In three years, debt service borne by the district will be $2,756,798. State aid, if it still exists, in addition to motor vehicle revenue would calculate to $891,549. The district hasn't yet paid one penny in principal off the 2008 and 2009 series bonds.

Wants and needs are different things. We don't seem to understand that around here. On a personal level, I need air, food, water. But I want quite a few other things. If I too greatly confuse my wants and needs, I personally go broke. Collective confusion about the district's financial situation is dangerous to our community right now.

For the record, I am 100% behind girls' soccer, as long as it is fully self-supporting until our outstanding bond issues are paid. That year is 2030. If there is sufficient support from the community, I'm sure we can find a way to make that happen.

March 14, 2011 at 9:17 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Vacant school, district property stirs interest from various groups

This appears to be inaccurate.

From the Kansas State Statutes: Chapter 12-1928(l): Powers of recreation commission. Every recreation commission appointed pursuant to this act shall have the power to: acquire title to personal property by purchase, bequest, gift or other donation and acquire title to real property by devise, gift, or other donation. Whenever property owned by a recreation commission is sold, the proceeds shall be for recreation purposes.

March 3, 2011 at 12:49 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

KDOT pledges $550,000 to make school intersection safer

KCMO doesn't do a whole lot of things right--we all know that. One thing they do that is effective in terms of traffic management is placing signs restricting traffic flow during peak periods.

I think all parties involved here could spring for a sign reading "No Left Turn 7-4, M-F" or "7-9am, 2-4pm, M-F" approaching Lawrence Avenue from town. I live on E1600 (same road), and I'll be the first to happily volunteer to obey a simple traffic directive. This isn't even about convenience here--it's common sense.

There's already a dedicated turn lane to access those schools on Bullpup. Here's an idea--put aside an extra minute and a half of your day, and use the turn lane we already have. Those new streets at least have sidewalks for the kids. We've got to start being sensible around here. Pay for these other improvements when the money is actually available.

Why do we lack the ability to make the best of a situation that solves itself? We're facing some issues that actually matter around here, and I feel we're still missing the point.

February 18, 2011 at 9:22 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Baldwin City's sales tax collections up, down in 2010

All this "math" you guys are talking about here is making my head hurt...I'm running to Lawrence to buy some aspirin...

In all seriousness, Ken: What can be done around here to regenerate a little trust between our local government agencies? This talk in the article above about hiking trails and such is nice, but I would think that's much more a "want" than a "need".

It seems that something that is needed would be a road that connects our new school facilities to the greater community. I thought that Elm Street connector was in the original design, and that funds would be allocated, some matching from the city, to create an in-town access point for the new facilities. (I could completely be wrong about all this. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong!)

What can be done as a collaboration between our local government entities to make something like this happen at a minimal cost? Experience tells me you're pretty likely to do what you say you're going to do, so how do you feel about temporary variances to establish at least a gravel road (with an improved sidewalk) as a connector between the community and these new facilities. A project variance like this could have an established termination, of course, at which point the road may be improved to meet current code standards.

Is this temporary variance something you would consider for the community good?

January 27, 2011 at 4:37 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Future of rural schools decision looms Monday night

From the Kansas State Statutes:
Chapter 72, Article 19: Charter Schools
72-1906:
"(b) A petition for the establishment of a charter school may be prepared and submitted to the board of education of a school district by or on behalf of a school building or school district employees group, an educational services contractor, or any other person or entity. Any such petition shall be submitted by not later than December 1 of the school year preceding the school year in which the charter school is proposed to be established."

Since our community paper no longer has an editor, I thought it should be noted that the timing of tomorrow's BOE vote is interesting. I sought, but could not find in the State Statues any regulation specific to a Unified School District acting as its own Political Action Committee in advance of a public bond issue. I'm not an attorney. I've spot checked a couple of other districts in the state with pending bond issues and these districts curiously chose to make no mention of their public vote on their website, much less issue an endorsement of any pending public fund campaigns. I don't know if sending kids home with a district publication endorsing extravagance is illegal. Something about it surely doesn't feel quite right...

Voters, however, bear the ultimate responsibility of due diligence.

The fact that the board is closing these schools tomorrow has become irrelevant. That action is a symptom of what appears to me to be a deeper problem. What should concern this entire community is the role, willingly or unwillingly, that USD#348 and its administration have played in our current socioeconomic crisis. If this article is accurate, there are only two proposals on the table for vote--An option to close both or keep both open. The fact that there is now no effective recourse for the community to operate a charter program is at least a little troubling to me. What's a little more troubling is I haven't heard anyone suggest this as a viable and/or financially responsible option. (An option no longer available for the 2011-12 year.) It appears to me to be fairly obvious that the rural schools, which carry no debt load, are financially (and academically) the highest performing assets in the district.

I hope I'm wrong, but it looks like the district will forge ahead with its "Buy high, sell low" philosophy and proceed to liquidate at under market-value their only remaining assets that carry no debt load. This will lead directly to another unaffordable bond issue if this community has any sort of population growth at all.

The discontentment many in the community are expressing is a reflection of the manner by which this entire process has occurred. And it's about time we should ALL agree that the operational culture of this district needs much closer community examination. I sincerely hope we realize another bond is not feasible. Well, for that matter, neither was the last one...

December 12, 2010 at 7:59 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

School board public hearing scheduled for tonight

I've only made two attempts to contact board members, and both Mr. Parks and Mr. Busby were gracious and considerate with their time to address my concerns. I made a further inquiry to the district office to obtain a full budget report for this fiscal year, and Ms. Morford was very helpful, and provided to me exactly the information I was seeking.

That being said, I still have some misgivings about financial savings as presented by the district. One example: The district refinanced the Series 2001 Bond issue in August, to a reported taxpayer savings of $461,441. That number appears to me to be overstated by $11,000. This is nitpicking, and perhaps I've missed a stated discount somewhere, but I suspect not. My information is the savings report PiperJaffray distributed to the Board members at that meeting. Mr. Busby was generous enough to allow me to review the information provided that night. But that figure (http://signal.baldwincity.com/news/20...) was reported in the paper by a district representative, and I believe that to be in error.

This, however, is only one way to look at the figures. This addresses the Present Value of the Bond debt, and accounts only for the actual stated figures of payment due throughout the life of the issue. After calculating the discounts and fees associated with the refinancing, the true savings to the taxpayers of the district appears to me to be only about $15,000. I don't argue that there were no savings here--it just appears to be about 3% of the savings announced by the district.

My point here is that specific financial information may not be the easiest thing in the world to get a hold of, and it might make your head hurt if you look at it too long, but it is there. It's taken work to acquire, but It is public record. Not one person has put up an insurmountable roadblock in a pursuit of the facts. Governmental financial information can be easily manipulated to appear to be something it is perhaps not.

I went to the KSDE website to find some information regarding our peer districts. The most current information available was for the 2009-10 year. Four districts in the state milled above 70 total. 36 districts had outstanding bond obligations over $35 million, and only four of those districts had total valuations below $100 million. It appears that #348 is the only district in the state by the most current information available to me that is milling over 70, has a valuation under $100 million, with bonds outstanding over $30 million. (Congratulations to Eudora Public Schools--they are attempting to do what we're doing in Baldwin with a little more aggression starting this year. They now have $54 million in outstanding obligations...) So I guess Eudora is our peer group. Chalking this one up to the "What are they thinking in Douglas County category."

November 12, 2010 at 7:13 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

School board won't vote on closing schools Monday night

Where can I get a copy of the current fiscal year budget? The USD 348 site "Budget 101" only details line items for 09-10. That's already happened. It only provides detailed information regarding student instruction. That isn't the issue here, except for the fact that less than half the district's funds appear to be heading in that direction for next fiscal year. (And every year for the next twenty, regardless of school closings) Where are the figures?

The latest debt service figures for FY 09-10, off the USD site shows a $1.162 million allocation. If the new debt service hits the books next year, my figures show $2.3 million in new allocations, assuming a massive restructuring of debt load hasn't already occurred. Restructuring that debt would be an unexplored level of insanity, considering the current debts are already negatively amortized.

Given that there seems to be a bit of panic going on around here, why isn't there a little more transparency to the public to access these numbers? I know it would be a lot of information, but I've got several gigs on my hard drive, and I think it would be relevant for the community to see what some of the line items in General Administration, School Administration, Ops & Maintenance, Capital Improvements, and Other Costs might be.

The information readily available on the district's site just isn't current at all...Shouldn't it be? USD 348 is one of a relatively small number of districts statewide that has seen positive growth over the past decade. From numbers I gathered from the Kansas Department of Education site, the enrollment has jumped from 1241.4 to 1359.4 for the ten years ending this spring. That makes USD 348 the 32nd fastest growing district in the state over that period of time. Some of the districts experiencing greater growth over that decade were those which had merged or consolidated. Generally speaking, districts that are growing do not close schools, and it must be a sign of gross community mismanagement when something like this occurs.

If the district is going to be broke anyway, and the newly built schools were not built to accommodate the capacity generated by these closings, why on earth would we close any schools? Are we going to feel that much better being marginally less bankrupt? The DLR Group, which orchestrated a very tidy presentation advocating the current bond issue that is bankrupting the district, further advocated another $40 million in debt load to be assumed over the next four years. Are we to continue making decisions based on advice from such an unwise counsel?

The end game here is that we made our own mess, and now we're going to have to clean it up. Let's start with the numbers. Can you get those up here, Jeff???

July 11, 2010 at 6:49 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

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