Board member Carol Van DeMark asked in the April 12, 2005 board meeting about the 2001 building vote. She might not be the only one who does not know the facts, so a reminder is now timely because the money necessary to pay for the building loans is going up $486,000 or 26.3% in the budget which is up for a vote. This is not the total cost, just the increase from last year. As an interesting comparison note, that the total combined cost of the sports and music program for a year is $320.831 thus much less than the yearly increase in paying back the loan on the building. There is about 20 more years of this to come before the building is paid. It is therefore of interest to be reminded of what got us in this mess. It is not a well-known fact that the board went ahead with the project even when less than half of the voters did vote yes for the project. The article below is a reprint from the 2002 issue of School Scandals.
THE VOTING SCANDAL
When our school administration and board wants to build a building, the pay very little attention to ethics or even the law. It seems that anything goes. I have collected examples of some incidents that the board and administration have orchestrated.
Illegal use of tax
money for campaigning.
It is against the law to use any taxpayer money for campaign use. In the last building vote the school spent an estimated $57 in campaigning for every yes vote they received. Is this how you want your tax money to be used?
The School establishment can put a lot of pressure on students who are of voting age to vote their way. Superintendent Bailey has in the past pulled grades with voting age students from their classes and assembled them in the auditorium where they have had to listen to propaganda so they vote in favor of the school agenda. I think it is irresponsible to interrupt scheduled classes and assemble the students to listen to election propaganda. This also tells us that education takes a back seat to politics in this administration.
campaigning aimed at the students is, of course, deceptive and biased. The usual scare
tactic used on students is to claim that if they vote for people (not supported by the
school establishment) the sports and music programs will be discontinued, as will all
The school board spent a lot of taxpayer money to distribute misinformation to the public before the building vote last year. As they sent out half a dozen campaign brochures, I do not have space to address it all, so couple of extracts from the first paragraph the May 2001 brochure must suffice.
The school board tried to mislead the public to believe that we have a space shortage. They wrote Although our student population has steadied over the years blah blah.
The truth is that 2000 census shows that we have had a very dramatic drop in the student population over the last 10 years. The student population is down 17.6%.
In the next sentence the board wrote, Our buildings, however are straining to meet the instructional needs of todays students and staff. An inventory of the space in the district showed that the school is renting out classrooms for business use. Even after the rented space we have over 10 classrooms without any students in them. The board also did not mention that we have only 1200 students in a space, which according to the strict New York space standards can house 2000. The board also did not mention that Superintendent Bailey had told them in the Nov 23, 1999 meeting that the school could house 2000 students.
REPAIRING THE VOTING MACHINE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE VOTE
Fifteen votes disappeared in the building vote, where the margin was 4 votes. A person employed by the school district was observed working on one of the voting machines during the vote. The district said afterwards that he was repairing the machine. No one had recorded what the vote total for and against was before and after the repairs.
When the Superintendent of the district pulls the students from their scheduled classes to listen to electioneering, one wonders if anyone is checking that the students are of age and that the vote only once. It would be reassuring if the voters had asked to show proof that they live in the district. It turned out that the persons in charge of the vote, not only had let the electioneering take place in the high school lobby during the vote, but also had not checked even one person for age, or residency, or had anyone sign the form where the person who is intending to vote affirms that he/she is a qualified voter. The school never provided any proof that they had checked out anyone for anything.
ONE VOTE, THREE
1) Board President James Loomis wrote in the Random Harvest that the building passed with 657 in favor to 353 opposed. After howls from the public Random Harvest ran a correction in the following issue. This time the vote was a lot closer; the winning margin had shrunk to only 4 votes.
2) I called the district office the day after the vote. My call was prompted by rumors of votes having disappeared in the voting machine repair incident. The district office line was that there had been a total of 1310 voters. With 653 votes opposed and 657 for, the school put out a voting result where everything seemed to be in order.
3) The list of the voters is a public record. When the voters were counted, the original claim of 1310 voters did not hold up. There were now 44 absentee ballots and 1281 signatures of voters totaling 1325 voters. Therefore we have 15 votes that disappeared in this version. One half of the total people who voted would be 663 votes. The yes side only got 657 votes, so less than half of the people voted for the project.
Can anyone else sense an odor here?
(Postscript Sept 2005. The newly hired financial officer for the school district now estimates that the cost of the building project which then superintendet C. Thomas Bailey used to sell the project, could be off up to 10 million dollars.)
CORRUPT VOTE, BUT NO CONSPIRACY
So we had a building vote where the school spent about $57 of tax our money in campaigning for every yes vote they got. They illegally electioneered inside the voting room during the vote. They repaired a voting machine without recording what the vote was before and after. No one kept track of what age the voters were, where they lived, or how many times they voted. After the election they came up with a variety of results. They did not even know how many people voted. My opinion is, that we had a thoroughly corrupt building vote, which should have been re- run and that time according to law. One thing that I hope you agree with me on is, that there cannot have been any conspiracy involved. No group of people could conspire on doing anything so stupidly that they got caught at every turn.