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Letter: Not a Candidate, Just Concerned Over LRT and School Resources

"Let’s secure our schools as priority number one before they have far more debt and it is too late."

To the Editor:

The Southwest LRT is estimated to cost $1.25 billion just to build. Funding sources are from federal dollars, county and state.

The annual cost to operate the SW LRT, over $32 million.⁵

How could this money be used instead for sustaining and improving public schools?  Let’s put priorities and $1.25 billion into context.

Here’s a hint of how to improve by showing public school debt for districts touched by the SW LRT.

Hopkins¹ debt to approximately the year 2030 is $187,080,032, Minnetonka² $139,169,548, Eden Prairie³ $86,756,927, Minneapolis⁴ $456,316,000.

Total debt $869,322,507.

Looks like $1.25 billion covers that and then some and there is $32 million annual costs still available to help elsewhere!

Hopkins¹ interest expense to approximately 2030 is $70,730,171, Minnetonka² $68,617,740, Eden Prairie³ $23,977,035, Minneapolis⁴ $128,885,628.

Total interest expense $292,210,574.

That’s quite a savings!

What would be the effect on an annual school budget that was without debt and interest expense?  In 2014 Hopkins Schools will owe $10,835,000 in principal and $7,405,926 in interest.¹ Question:  How many teachers and building repairs could that provide?

Leaders promote and persuade.  Followers jump on the train.

It’s about priorities, vision and responsibility.

Let’s secure our schools as priority number one before they have far more debt and it is too late.  It’s about spending our total tax dollars wisely.  You may say that we can’t determine the use of those LRT dollars.  We have to spend them on a train.  But, that’s my point.  When as taxpayers will we say we’ve had enough of being told how to spend our money?  It’s our money.  Let’s get the priorities right.

David Lloyd, Minnetonka

Sources

¹Hopkins Public Schools, CAFR, Page 53, June 30, 2011, http://www.hopkinsschools.org/sites/default/files/Hopkins_Public_Schools-CAFR-FY11.pdf

² http://www.minnetonka.k12.mn.us/administration/Budget/Documents/District_Audit.pdf Page 63

³ https://webmedia.edenpr.org/District/Documents/comprehensive_2011.pdf  Page 48

⁴ http://financeandbudget.mpls.k12.mn.us/uploads/mps_financial_statements_2011.pdf  Page 45

⁵ http://www.commissions.leg.state.mn.us/lcmg/092512lcmgppt.pdf

David October 07, 2012 at 06:49 AM
The Eden Praire City Council is 4 DFLers and 1 GOP. So, yeah, they ARE a bastion of the DFL. And David L is correct, they are all for it because they think they aren't paying for it. When the reality is that no tax dollar is free and the maintenance costs will be born by the counties which will do so by raising property taxes (that's right, the DFL are lying, again, when they claim that the GOP-controlled state legislature 'raised property taxes.' Any high schooler who stayed awake in civics knows the state has no say in property taxes), which means we ALL will be paying for it. Do you have any evidence to back up your claim that LRT will bring a better ROI? Because Macalaster College did a study and even the Met Council agrees that the SW Corrider ROI is .42. That's a return of 42 cents for every dollar spent on a system that cannot be changed in the future with population shifts. http://minnetonka.patch.com/articles/opinion-light-rail-nothing-short-of-a-money-pit Yeah, that sure sounds like its a better use of our tax dollars.
Emily B October 07, 2012 at 03:32 PM
David, thanks for the KSTP article, but that hardly proves that buses are more "preferred." It is simple reporting of ridership numbers, not preference. Some people, like those of us in the West Metro, have no access to anything but a bus now. So, buses are more USED because that is what is currently available, but consider that there is ONE lightrail - the NorthStar is NOT a lightrail and so is not apples to apples when you're talking about what is being proposed for LRT - and dozens of bus routes. Still 1/8th of the rides were on lightrail, so if anything, I'd think that shows a lean more toward the trains. The SW LRT will run at a frequency like that of Hiawatha, not the few times a day that NorthStar does. The purpose and setup is very different. Part of the problem plaguing NorthStar was the planners did not foresee the housing crash, when many of the people who had moved out to the way-out burbs re-migrated back to the Cities. One could say that could be a concern in the SW region, however a big difference is the businesses that anchor the route where people will be going regularly OUT to the area vs just to downtown, very different to the one-way commuter setup of the Northstar.
David October 07, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Emily, the fact that people are taking the busses and the Met Council has had to lower fares again because ridership quotas have not been met for three years running is most definitely proof that people prefer busses. As is the mere fact that they ARE using busses and not trains wasn't evidence enough.
Emily B October 08, 2012 at 04:44 AM
I think to get an actual sense for preference, you need to do a survey asking exactly that or compare the specific ridership rates of the current lightrail (Hiawatha) to bus routes that serve the same area, like Route 5. Also, they have not had to drop the price of the current lightrail (Hiawatha), and they have tons of riders. The Northstar is a different story. It is a completely different kind of train - it is heavyrail, and the purpose and schedule are set up completely different. I know David is never going to agree with me on this, and that is ok, but I think it is important to look at the train which is actually comparable (Hiawatha) to the proposed new route (SW LRT).
David October 08, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Emily's survey idea has already been done. It's called actual rider statistics. And Busses win hands down. They serve 7 times more riders and a fraction of the cost. They go where the riders need them to go, which a train will not. Even one going from downtown Mpls to the Mall of America doesn't get the ridership supporters claimed it would. What makes them think yet ANOTHER train will? Pixie dust and progressive, utopian hopes, that's what. It's the old addage: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me 3 times (NorthStar, Hiawatha, Central Cooridor) shame on me. Looks like progressive social engineers like Emily have a solid bet that we can be fooled a fourth time with another Train to Nowhere ridden by No One.

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