About forty years ago I first attended school at Hall Elementary on the southwest side of town. There's even a yellowed newspaper article with a photo of me attending the area's first Head Start class to prove it. (So, you see, my liberal friends, I actually owe everything that I am today to LBJ and the Great Society. ;) At the time the school was almost new, built nine years earlier to accommodate the post-war baby boom. So now, with only a half-century's wear-and-tear on the building, the Grand Rapids Board of Education voted on Monday to tear it down and construct a brand spanking new school.
Why? Because the school district has money to burn. Sure, the operational budget is out of control, and no doubt that problem will eventually sink the district into bankruptcy. However, some years back the voters approved a $165 million bond issue for new bricks and mortar to repair or replace dilapidated school buildings. It seems that the district got that job done under budget, even with funding new construction that was not truly needed. So there's $11.5 million left from the bond. Let's give the local educrats a pat on the back for that.
Now let's give them a kick in the shins for board's decision this week regarding Hall Elementary. Apparently it's inconceivable that the Grand Rapids public school district should return the $11.5 million to the taxpayers (plus saving the interest expense on top of that). Because the educrats got the money, they've got to spend it. (And don't even get me started on the soccer field included in the site plan! Where's the baseball diamond?) Hall Elementary did not need to be knocked down and replaced before these funds were known to be available (which is why it was NOT on the district's original list of infrastructure priorities). It's only after the money showed up as a surplus did the district now need to do something about Hall Elementary.
There's a lesson in this for the voters. They should only approve bond issues to fund specific projects.