Topics covered in this article:
- TUSD was in the red $15 million last year, just as the former CFO Awwad predicted.
- For the past few years, the amount that TUSD has been in the red almost exactly coincides with the amount it had to borrow from Prop 301 funds.
- The only way TUSD could borrow from Prop 301 is to not pay out that money to the teachers year after year.
This has been a year where many on the left- and right-leaning sides of the political spectrum came full circle and met to work together against the center-establishment on important issues in Tucson, from changing leadership in the Sheriff’s Office to TUSD. Now that new leadership is here, we should try to move forward and at least start with conversations and discussions based on facts and figures, or else nothing much will have changed.
As an example, last week the Tucson Weekly’s David Safier was a guest on the Bill Buckmaster Show. One huge issue that has been affecting TUSD lately is the hoarding of the Prop 301 monies from teachers. Call it hoarding or not, but the over $20 million that has not been dispersed is real; intended or not.
The last time I called in to ask Mr. Safier a question about this a few months ago, he defended HT Sanchez and said that Prop 301 ended in the year 2009, so it is impossible for there to be a problem, and my credibility was challenged, but Safier was proven wrong.
This month I called in to ask about his thoughts on the Prop 301 monies which even the teachers’ union is getting involved in (finally) to help get the teachers the money that taxpayers voted for them back in the year 2000.
Mr. Safier’s answer was like most of his articles, admitting he doesn’t really know what is going on but that will not stop him from a defense of Sanchez and perhaps a jab at my credibility or at those who challenge the TUSD Establishment.
In the video below, David Safier says that this issue is very complex and he would need a lot of time to figure it out (this issue has been public since summer). However, I want to take a different approach with my response today. If David Safier, the educational expert for the Tucson Weekly, doesn’t understand the problem, I’m sure many others out there also don’t.
The problem in a nutshell
In 2014, the former CFO of TUSD warned of major financial problems as he left the district. He specifically mentioned $15 million that the district would be short in the coming year.
- David Safier wrote an article defending HT Sanchez
- Ever since then, including last week, Mr. Safier has been questioning the credibility of former CFO Awwad, basically saying where is the budget shortfall? It never happened and thus Awwad was a liar and HT was right.
This is important because knowing that the district was (possibly) going broke would lead to the following… let’s say strange “coincidences” that would occur to hide this possible financial reality.
(Article continued below)
We now KNOW WITHOUT A DOUBT that a massive amount of Prop 301 monies has not been paid out to teachers and instead the balance has grown to an amount that is bigger than the amount TUSD even gets annually from the state.
- We can blame Arizona and Governor Ducey all we want, but what’s the point if once we get the money, HT Sanchez doesn’t even spend it?
- Prop 301 balances should be as close to zero every year. TUSD is unique in the state, from Mesa to local districts, all are paying out the money each year. TUSD is the only one hoarding over 100% of annual Prop 301 monies.
- The Prop 301 monies that were not paid out in 2013, 2014, and 2015 to teachers who have since left the district, and there are over 1100 of them that have, will never be paid out to these teachers who deserved it.
This bind that TEA and HT are in only came about after MONTHS of constant questioning by others, including this blog, about the data that TUSD was presenting, clearly showing the money that was there and not being spent. Now that many teachers know about this hoarding, they are demanding the money, no thanks to local media who have pretty much ignored the issue, including the Tucson Weekly.
The plot thickens
Part of the question that I asked on the radio last week to Mr. Safier was that it appears that the money that was hoarded by TUSD also exactly matches the amount that TUSD was in the red… and we are now learning that loans were made from the Prop 301 funds to cover these shortfalls!
In other words, TUSD really was broke, and it was using the teachers’ money to hide that fact!
Note that the amount that TUSD needs to borrow is almost exactly the amount in unspent Prop 301 funds, and that in FACT, TUSD was borrowing money from the Prop 301 to balance its budget!
Remember when the CFO in 2014 warned about the at least $15 million that TUSD would be short?
It was true! (Actually, it appears the problem may be worse with the total amount closer to $22.5 million based on preliminary data released by the TUSD accounting firm, Heinfeld Meech).
TUSD used the teachers’ money to balance its budget, and now those teachers that have left will NEVER see that money that HT hoarded from them to hide the budget shortfall.
I smell a class action lawsuit coming… and I smell HT Sanchez looking to leave TUSD as fast as he can before even the local media and the Tucson Weekly can no longer ignore what is going on at the expense of underpaid teachers by the highest-paid superintendent in the state ($499,700 this year).
David Safier concluded his response to me on the radio last week by saying that Awwad was wrong that there would be a $15 million problem in TUSD in 2015, and that HT now has over $20 million saved up, and now we are complaining about a surplus. But he gets this so wrong. The amount that TUSD has saved up should NOT be saved as it is supposed to be paid out to teachers every year, and that amount was not available for teachers anyways since it was loaned out to get TUSD out of the red, the very shortfall that Awwad predicted.
Ironically, earlier in the radio interview, Mr. Safier was blasting Governor Ducey for “robbing Peter to pay Paul” when it comes to education funding, yet he continues to look the other way when HT Sanchez is robbing the Teachers right before our very eyes.
Also published on Medium.