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School sales tax proposal must come with detailed plan
February 7, 2018

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To the editor:

I have been following the recent request by the Lee County school board to vote on a referendum to increase funding to pay for capital improvements for the school district along with new facilities needed due to the increased student population. A couple of items I would like to share from my experience as a retired facility manager with 29 years of experience in public schools.

Lesson one is that you cannot expect people to part with their money without complete transparency of your goals along with benchmarking on how those goals will be achieved. The district needs to complete a full asset evaluation and determine life cycles of all building components and equipment and perform a forward looking analysis of how there will be funding to keep those assets maintained. The district needs to detail building by building the maintenance line item shortfalls along with real dollar amounts.

A capital improvement endowment should be created. You cannot live referendum to referendum to keep your public buildings maintained. The district also needs to show that the existing facilities are fully utilized. Perhaps a flexible scheduled needs to be investigated to get more hours of usage per day out of the existing facilities. Be transparent.

Lesson two is to explain the history on how a funding shortfall developed. Why was there a roll back on impact fees when forward projections should have shown that new buildings would be needed? Was this to facilitate building new homes in the Cape? Be honest.

Lesson three; spending large sums to expedite a special election is a waste of money when there is a general election is in the fall. Special elections are generally held so most voters don't participate. People know this and resist referendums for money even when it may be needed.

Be thorough, don't undersell or over pressure the voters. Don't be sneaky!

With regard to the funding mechanisms; if the main argument is the influx of new students then the impact fee needs to be fully utilized and adjusted upwards to offset the costs of buildings and services that need to be supplied. If there is a capital maintenance shortfall this should be attached to property taxes and adjusted annually after publishing a transparent budget.

A sales tax will impact purchasing. Those that cannot afford to spend on those little extras in life won't spend. That will affect business. It is regressive.

I do not want a tax increase in any shape or form. But, if it can be proven that we need the funds to maintain, operate and upgrade facilities then it must be.

You cannot sell a referendum by stating that we have lots of students arriving or we haven't maintained the buildings. The issue needs to be presented on paper - published, with more substantial data. Don't waste taxpayers' time on a referendum especially if it is going to cost about $800,000.

J. Caplin

Cape Coral

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