Put the brakes on spiraling school taxes

Steve Mitchel wrote an interesting article in Thursday’s Poughkeepsie Journal (July 30th, 09) that summarizes what we have been saying for a long time. It definitely isn’t a local problem but in our school district is is OUR problem. You may have heard how low the increase in the school budget has been this year -record low- and how hard everyone has worked to make it that low. Thanks for patting yourselves on the back.

What you will not hear from the administration -nor the School Board- is how, if it weren’t for the taxpayer group going to each board meeting, asking questions, questioning costs, and FORCING them to revisit school costs, it wouldn’t have been that low. The difference from other years is that in the past no one went to board meetings to question anything, so it was a localized “laissez faire” status quo (don’t interfere with our system).

Don’t hear it through someone else. You should go and see first hand what your money is really spent on. Never forget that it’s YOUR tax money! We are appalled at what we hear people say, completely erroneous and baseless. Don’t let others (people or unions) think and decide for you.

Allow me to highlight some portions of his article, pay close attention and start thinking for yourself, because that’s what you were taught in High School, right?

Steve Mitchel:

School taxes, hiked again regardless of the severe economic crisis with resultant job losses, are due soon. How will you pay? What will you cut out? No vacation? No home improvement? No restaurants? No new clothes for you, for your children? Delayed maintenance on the old car that really must be replaced?

Proof positive of the really painful financial strains on everyone is the Poughkeepsie Journal’s July 15 article “Sales tax revenue plunges in NYS,” meaning folks are not making retail purchases, causing more job losses and service cutbacks as state and local governments lack the money to fund necessary government services. What will you do? What can you do?

Right now, start the process to study and learn everything possible regarding the powers who determine school taxes – the people who sit on your school district board of education. Be ready to make the necessary changes when voting time comes again.

Boards of education actions can deeply affect life more than any other elected officials. Board members have the power to:

• Raise taxes again.

• Determine what food our children will eat in school.

• Substantially affect the quality, good or bad, of education our children will receive.

• Affect the physical condition of our children with lifelong consequences.

• Affect the psychological state of our children with serious, lifetime results.

Do you deem school board members as public servants mandated to accurately and faithfully represent the taxpayers interests?

You name one sane taxpayer who favors increasing property taxes? Accordantly (sic), how can you explain each and every Dutchess County school district raising taxes?

Do you question exactly whose interests school board members in reality favor?

How do you respond to the July 3 Journal Page One story “Rt. 9 getting that vacant look” with the smaller headline “40 storefronts empty from Hyde Park to Fishkill?”

Nationally, eventually affecting us all, the New York Times on July 3 reported “Joblessness hits 9.5%, deflating recovery hopes.”

Based on all the above, how do you explain our school board giving more and more money to administrators who, on average, earn (450 percent) more than the average Dutchess taxpayer?

Raising taxes incessantly and robotically entails no financial acuity, no fiscal ingenuity, no monetary prowess, no economic strategic intelligence and no courage. The higher taxes button is the easy way in which a cop-out causes societal damage.

Businesses can sponsor

My initial Valley Views column revealed an unprecedented strategy to produce new revenue without uncertain state aid and temporary federal stimulus money: school funding aided by business. In the Red Hook school district, for example, if each business sponsor averages a mere $1,000 per year, the gross revenue produced would be about $2.2 million, which could decrease taxes residents pay instead of hitting them with another painful increase. Within certain guidelines, sponsorships of school activities by businesses are legal, and those businesses can receive valuable recognition in their own advertising in direct-mail, print or broadcast media, etc.

The precaution is clear: Sponsor businesses will expect and require, likely unsaid, fiscal prudence from participating districts. Can you name just one business in America that has not tightened its financial belt? Businesses will not sponsor waste, unjustified, untimely salary increases and expensive school programs.

If the severe state population decreases continue, which is the sad news trend, empty classrooms will result with no jobs in education based on no one to teach. Overtaxed residents vote with their feet by moving to states with lower taxes as New York notoriously ranks with America’s highest taxes states.

The front-line victims of the move-aways are our innocent children who are uprooted, suffering separation pain from childhood friends and neighbors and anxious about entry into new schools and neighborhoods. The suffering is shared by all who are forced to move: costly moving expenses, loss of lifetime friends proximity, long distances from relatives.

We, the taxpayers, own the schools. Ultimately, we have the real power to ensure optimum and affordable education. The antediluvian, antiquated, worn-out higher taxes ad infinitum status quo is tragically leading to New York state: the ghost town.

Poughkeepsie Journal

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