Friday, March 18, 2011

Arlington School District Superintendent Continues Tax Levy Misstatement

Arlington School District update:  Superintendent's tax levy data is more correct now, but his key summary statement is still wrong.

Recent Post Highlights Data Errors and Key Misprint

My recent post Arlington School District Proposes Lowest Tax Levy Increase in Decade — NOT exposed the fact that Arlington School Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks used incorrect tax levy data to reach an incorrect conclusion in his 2011-2012 Budget Draft 2 presentation of February 15, 2011.  This incorrect conclusion was that the 2011-2012 budget proposal represented the lowest tax levy increase in 10 years.  In reality, it represents the second lowest tax levy increase.

As an aside to my main point, I made light of a ridiculous misprint on a key summary page, which unintentionally stated  
Lowest proposed tax levy in 10 years 
instead of  
Lowest proposed tax levy increase in 10 years

The proposal actually represents the highest proposed tax levy in 10 years, and almost certainly the highest in the history of the Arlington School District, not the lowest

My Contacts with Arlington Officials

Before posting, I worked closely with a senior Arlington official to correct some of Arlington's past tax levy data, though we were not able to resolve disparities from 2000 to 2004.  After posting, I emailed Hicks, to be sure he would have direct access to my post.

Revised Presentations Continue Misstatement

Hicks has now presented two revisions of the February budget draft, Arlington Central School District:  Community Budget Forum on March 12, and Arlington Central School District:  Budget Study Session on March 15.  Happily, both these revisions provide the partial correction to Hicks' chart of tax levy increase history.  This partial correction is enough to establish the correct conclusion that the proposal represents only the second lowest tax levy increase in a decade, not the lowest.  This correct conclusion is hinted at by the fact that the word “second” has been prepended to the main summary page bullet item, which in both of this week's drafts reads

Second lowest proposed tax levy in 13 years

So “second” was inserted, and “10” was changed to “13”, but the key term “increase” didn't make it into either revised draft.  So this twice-revised summary statement is still as wrong as it ever was.

Stakeholders May Be Mislead

I'm sure that Arlington's Board of Education and readers of this blog will easily understand the intended meaning of Hicks' key summary statement, despite the misprint.  But in my view, many of Arlington's less sophisticated stakeholders who read only Hicks' summary page will not catch the blunder, especially since it's now been repeated in three successive presentations.  It's unfortunate that Hicks has been unable to correctly communicate a key feature of the proposed 2011-12 budget — even after three tries.

1 comment:

  1. Superintendent Hicks has finally gotten it right on the fourth try: His March 29 Budget Study Session document at http://www.arlingtonschools.org/images/stories/budget2011/march29budgetpresentation.pdf contains a revised summary (page 7) with the word "increase" correctly inserted. Hicks was also able to change "second lowest" back to "lowest" -- legitimately this time -- because he reduced the 2011 tax levy increase below the 2007 increase of 3.98 percent.

    Hicks' document says the 2011 increase is 3.45 percent, but the Poughkeepsie Journal's front page story today says it's 3.84 percent. Either way, a key feature of Arlington's budget is now correctly stated. I'm glad to see this correction.

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