Tornado Accounting

By now I think just about every news junkie in the United States associates Joplin Missouri with tornadoes. Our local newspaper, the Joplin Globe, has finally published a roundup of something I’ve been waiting for ever since our town was hit last May 22 by that massive EF-5 twister, an accounting of financial aid. We have received a lot of it, ranging from federal, state and charitable. Unfortunately, the accounting is incomplete, and what is missing is the insurance coverage on the damaged schools.

The article in the Globe summarized the case this way:

“The $62 million is part of a $185 million building initiative the district is launching to rebuild tornado-damaged buildings, install tornado shelters and make improvements and repairs to some other schools. Approximately $121.3 million is money the district has from insurance settlements or expects from state and federal sources such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”

Thus we are left wondering how much of the $121.3 million is insurance money and how much is government assistance? And this also begs the question, were the school buildings, like my own house for example, insured for full replacement value or not? And, if they were, then how will the city fathers justify the $60,000,000 bond issue to be placed before school district voters this coming April?

That these figures haven’t’ been broken out makes me, as a homeowner, suspicious. I’m not paranoid yet, just skeptical. As I understand it, our schools were fully insured, and on top of that we got massive aid.  So, I have questions:

1.  How much of that aid went to cleanup?

2.  How much aid money is available for rebuilding?

3.  If we were fully insured, why do we need an extra 60 million dollar tax burden that is going to boost property taxes?

Justice and law
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I want Joplin to have great schools, and I know that the physical buildings and facilities are important. They not only encourage the process of education but attract teaching talent and benefit businesses. Fine. But I am concerned that civic leaders might find it too tempting to capitalize on tornado sympathy to build facilities larger and more ornate than what is required. But here’s the bottom line: in a democracy the voting public deserves to know the plain facts. I call on the media and the local government to lay everything on the table, and do it in time for public discussions well before the April ballot.

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About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Independent, tending progressive as the GOP recedes from its Eisenhower roots.
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9 Responses to Tornado Accounting

  1. PiedType says:

    As a taxpayer, I’d certainly want the sort of breakdown you’re asking for. It’s a fair question: If the schools were insured for full replacement value, why do they need a bond issue?

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Exactly, Pied. I understand that the board of education wanted to do some upgrading before the tornado hit, anyway. But a good number of them are going to be brand-new from the replacements. Sixty million dollars seems like a lot of upgrading to me, but I will wait for the accounting.

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  2. Good questions Jim. I hope the town of Joplin, Missouri, appreciates you.

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  3. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim,

    In fact the Globe, several weeks ago, provided the top level breakdown you ask for. My numbers are from memory and thus not exact but here they are:

    About $85 Million from insurance proceeds

    About $35 Million from State and Federal aid to rebuild the schools

    About $1.5 million is donations.

    There roughly is your $121 Million above, But the BOE wants $185 Million. And for now they have not explained WHY that much money is needed, in my view. Are they “guilding the lily” or do we really NEED that much money ($185). All we have really heard so far is “we need it for the kids”.

    Anson

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  4. ansonburlingame says:

    According to press releases from the BOE, yes the schools were fully insured. To me as a homeowner that if i lose an $85 Million house, the insurance company will replace that same basic house for the insured vaule. “fully insured” means I get an $85 Million house back from insurance proceeds.

    BUT if before the storm I had more “kids” than could comforably fit into my $85 Million house then I needed to build an addition before the storm and insure it for a higher value.

    But now we see……. I hope you get my point.

    Anson

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Yes, I think so. You had so many kids that you actually needed $60 million dollars more house than you had. Please wait awhile Mr. Burlingame while our insurance investigator checks that out. Er, let’s see, the population of your Joplin “house” was about 40,000 in 2000 and it was, uh, 45,000 in 2010, is that about right?

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  5. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim,

    You have raised ANOTHER good question, the answer to which I do not know. What was the student population of Joplin HS in 2000, 2005, 2010 and today? If student population tracks with the city’s population over the last ten years, then why do we need a $62 Million “addition” to the school, now?

    Anson

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  6. Jim Wheeler says:

    Just for information of my readers, I have found a Joplin R-VIII web site that provides some information about the bond issue. Unfortunately it is hardly adequate to convince.

    Total Project Cost = $185 million
    Est. Insurance Settlement = $85.9 million (presumably the re-build money)
    Federal & State funding = $35.4 million
    Donations = $1.7 million
    Bond Request = $62 million

    But, only the bond request money is broken down, and even that is quixotic. It allocates $44.3 million to “rebuilding destroyed schools, including safe rooms and expanding square footage.” This leaves us to wonder two things:

    1. What part of the “project” will the $35.4 million in government funding be spent on?
    2. Since “rebuilding destroyed schools” is presumably covered by insurance, do safe rooms cost $44.3 million dollars?

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