Oct 21 2018

OPINION: Titan: Positive Influence on School District Finances

The historical record demonstrates that Hari Titan is not spreading falsehoods (nor widely).  While I’ll refuse to respond tit-for-tat to the semantical hair-splitting to which this debate has descended (and the careful use of ellipses to cloud the discussion), I firmly and confidently state that Hari’s positive influence on improving PUSD’s financial decision-making when it comes to bond financing, is neither a myth, nor false, nor exaggerated, nor can it be overstated.

The School Board may have fully understood that the financial impact of 2013’s Series E CAB sale was expected to be an incremental $18.8M in interest payments for Piedmont taxpayers and rationalized those excess costs as a ‘necessary evil’. However, denying responsibility for that decision by declaring that there was no opposition to it at the time is tantamount to deflecting culpability on the public (which was, indeed, ignorant about the significant trade-offs CABs entail, even if the School Board was not).

It is abundantly clear, and is supported by the historical record, that Hari Titan single-handedly (and unpopularly) discovered the use of CABs, dug in and did his homework to understand the long-term financial ramifications, and explained the issue clearly to the voting public.  It is also clear that once the public was aware of the use of this ‘creative’ financing mechanism, public opposition to the continuing or future use of CABs was broad-based, vocal, and vehement.  I admire Hari’s courage in vigorously waving the cautionary flag to prevent further sale of CABs*.

It is also obvious from the historical record that the School Board was open to considering continuing use of CABs in spite of this opposition.  CAB’s were presented as a financing option to refurbish the Alan Harvey theatre (the topic became moot when the bond proposition was not passed by voters**).

CABs remained in the School Board’s consideration set for use in the most recent $60M bond approval.  Board members rationalized keeping CABs ‘on the table’ as a financing vehicle because CABs provide the District  ‘flexibility’ to continue spending on construction projects while delaying payments on them (no downpayment!  0% financing!).  The fact that current and recent School Board members claim victory for deciding NOT to continue using CABs after 2013 belies the fact that the School Board may very well have utilized CABs as a financing instrument if it were not for the fierce opposition raised by Hari Titan’s public education on the subject and the consistent and vocal preference declared by many, many Piedmont parents, taxpayers and voters for the use of more classical, steady-handed, disciplined financing methods.

Hari will also receive my vote for PUSD’s School Board.

*It is germane to this point that shortly after the 2013 sale of CABs by PUSD, the CA legislature outlawed the sale of those same CABs to CA School Districts because the usurious rates charged on them had nearly, or actually, bankrupted many school districts state-wide who were similarly ham-strung by the Recession’s impact on school district finances.

**It is worth noting, for those unfamiliar with Measure H history, that Measure H, a $13-15M bond placement to refurbish Alan Harvey Theatre, was rejected by Piedmont voters, primarily due to the courageous communication and diligent research supplied by Hari Titan and Alicia Kalamas, which credibly questioned the District’s plan to renovate, rather than demolish and rebuild, PHS’s existing theatre.  Their time-consuming, competitive research provided local case-study evidence inferring that the proposed Alan Harvey Theatre project was projected to be excessively costly yet yield a facility with inferior amenities compared to the recent construction costs and designs of other Bay Area high school theaters.

Hope Salzer, Piedmont Resident

One Response to “OPINION: Titan: Positive Influence on School District Finances”

  1. Thank you, Hope, for the reminder that the California Legislature created law AB 182 to ban CABs with the terms that PUSD had.

    See also: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/02/local/la-me-ln-school-bonds-20131002

    One wonders how the board could not appreciate the burdensome cost of these bonds.

    Seems to me that the only people who benefited from this type of bond are the people who invested in them and collected the interest revenue.

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