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Who is going to pay?

Chronicle /News-Herald Guest View

September 4, 2019
By Adam Todd , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

We knew it was coming. A push to build a new school, or to completely remodel the middle school. It was easy to see was coming last winter when the district paid someone $12,500.00 to come in and find all the faults with the buildings we have. They even managed to find that the new elementary school needed at least $1.6 million and up to 3.5 million dollars of repairs and upgrade.

The new elementary school isn't even paid off yet.

I appreciate the technique they are using. Start early and get a third party to assert that we need 25 million dollars in repairs and improvements. Then by the end of it, they'll just be a push for a new middle school, or a severely remodeled one, and we'll be told to be happy we didn't have to come up with 25 million to fix all the schools, and when we have to build or reconstruct the middle school somehow the millions of dollars of repairs on the other schools will be magically forgotten.

I appreciate that the new superintendent got a committee of teachers and influential citizens together to ask them their opinions. I see the technique behind that. It would be wise to build a committee that will rally support for a new school. It's a good technique. Many of them are my friends. Many of them I respect immensely.

All of that is fine, but I will ask the only question that has needed to be asked the whole time, and it's not, do we need a new school. The question is:

Who's going to pay for it?

We haven't even gotten the elementary school paid for, and again the people auditing the buildings have already told us it needs millions of dollars of improvements. It's easy to find faults. It's harder to find money.

So- who is going to pay for another new school?

By the way where are the other, previous superintendents at? Why is it that superintendents come in and rally support for putting Tama County into deeper debt and then leave? Where is Larry Molacek? Is he around helping pay for the elementary school, no- he is literally in Saudi Arabia!! Where is Mary Jones? Why isn't she around helping pay for the high school remodel? I'm still around, you're still around, and we are stuck with the bills. Are these people getting bonuses if they manage to get us to go in more debt or what? Why do they leave us after we go in debt at their promptings? What's going to keep Jared Smith from leaving too? I'm not leaving Tama County, I am rooted deeply. I care about the financial condition of our county. I don't think it is wise to keep piling the debt on. Why don't we see some serious numbers of how much we owe, and how much we cash flow? Show everyone how far we are in debt as a county and as a school district. We're starting to operate our little agricultural county like Washington D.C operates. We all know that it's not the roads that are getting all the tax money.

We've got a 7 million dollar radio system that we have yet to get the bill for, but it's coming, and nobody got any say in that, it was rammed down our throat, but it is still going to have to be paid for, and if we didn't have that 7 million dollar bill, maybe we could talk new school, 7 million dollars would have probably went a long way on a school, but it got spent on radio upgrades.

We have a new elementary school that isn't paid for. We've got millions of dollars in remodeling of the high school to pay for, and that we have yet to start getting the bills for. If you've got a water bill in Toledo, you've got a bill that is 20 bucks higher every month to pay for a new water plant, and you are also going to get to start paying for a new fire truck next year too, so wait to see what your tax bill is next year, because property taxes are a year behind. When is it enough? When should we slow down a second and let the bills come in to see if we have the cash flow to cover it?

If the teachers all had to take a 5 or 10% pay cut in order to get a new school would they be for it as much? If the parents had to pay a 1000 dollar tuition every year would they be for it as much? If everyone in the district took a 10% income tax increase to help pay for a new school would they still do it? Would everyone on the committee that is advocating for a new school be willing to take a chunk of the debt as their own-- say 10 or 15,000. Am I suggesting we should cut teacher pay? Am I suggesting a tuition? No, I am making the point that if the people that wanted it most were also the ones that paid for it the most, they would have some second thoughts about it. If the people wanting it the most sacrificed the most I wouldn't be as bleak towards a new or remodeled school, but the reality is, and I'll be blunt, the farmers and property owners are going to get asked to pay for it. Well, not asked, as much as forced to pay for it. You see farmers pay the bulk of the property taxes and they are a minority class where they can be billed for other peoples well-meaning projects. If a committee of folks from town decide they would like a school, then it is not terribly hard to vote that bill onto property tax. Property tax is not a fair way to tax. Most people in town will not see their taxes go up much. Farmers and other property based businesses will see a substantial increase. And if there is a year of difficulty like this one and farmers don't have a lot of profit (or any), they are still stuck with the bill. If anything it should be an income based tax. That way if farmers make money you can still tax them, but the folks in town will get taxed equally if they make money. If people don't make money or more income from one year to the next they don't get a bigger bill. The catch with that is that most people all around will see their taxes go up 5 or 600 dollars, whereas if you vote it onto property tax your taxes might only go up 100 dollars, but you'll have a lot of farmers and other property based businesses seeing 1000 or 2000 dollar increases, and they still pay that even if they have a losing year, or if the bank actually owns all their property. That is wrong. When a majority decides to impose their will on a minority-- that is bullying. Real leadership is when the leaders make the sacrifices, not when they shift those sacrifices to a minority.

Can you get a majority to vote a tax onto the minority? Maybe, but in my book, and again I will be blunt, that is bullying and theft. Anytime someone bigger imposes their will on someone smaller, it is bullying.

Another thing- is it true that the fifth graders are in the middle school now? Aren't there 5th grade classrooms in the new building? Are they just being used for storage? I could understand how the middle school would get more packed if we took a grade out of one building and put them in another building that was never meant for them. When I went to the middle school it held the 6th, 7th and 8th graders, is it now also hosting the 5th graders?

Now -if I wanted a school, and I wanted to make other people pay for most of it, and someone such as myself wrote an article against it- I would immediately label that person as an anti-school, anti-progress individual to attempt to discredit them. That would be a very good technique to employ against me, so let me be clear before anyone tries to label me as anti school, or anti progress- I am not against a new school. I went to the middle school over 20 years ago, so I know it's old. Again, I am not against a new school. I am against raising property taxes, well, I am against raising any taxes, but especially property taxes. As long as property tax increases are on the table, I will be against them. I am all for a new school it we have to. I just want everyone to pay their fair share. Income taxes would be much more fair. Property taxes are not fair. If an elderly person on fixed income owns their house or land and you raise property taxes on them, that is wrong. They aren't making anymore income to offset their tax increase. Property taxes are essentially renting our own property back from the government. I am not in favor of the government raising my rent. The people that want a school the most need to bear the most burden, that's true leadership.

If PPEL comes up again, I will campaign against it because it raises property taxes. I would be much, much less inclined to campaign against income taxes, but that would be a completely different debate. At least that would spread the burden around in a more equal manner. That way, at least someone pulling a 100 grand a year with no dependents would at least pay in something toward the debt too. That seems much more fair. In Tama County here there is a lot of land that gets taken off the tax rolls and put into a Native American trust, and that ground doesn't support PPEL. Seems like, if a new school was built on income tax, it would fairly tax every citizen in the district, and then some citizens wouldn't get to be taxless. It wouldn't allow certain land to go untaxed. I think we have a lot of workers that have come into the area with children in the school that are hardworking individuals, and if their employer held out income tax from their paycheck to help pay for a school that their children go to, it would only be fair.

Also what if the pack closes? It's closed numerous times before. How many students will leave the district? What then? We'll have new bigger schools to house students that may not be here in five years if the pack closes, but we'll still have the debt.

I'm not really for raising income taxes either, I'm just giving an example. I just think we need to play fair. I think everyone should have the same amount of skin in the game. Maybe if the people wanting the new school knew it was going to cost them an extra 1200 a year instead of just 200 a year, they would think about a new school differently. Maybe they would be able to streamline the process and start asking questions about how much stuff costs, and why is stuff so high. It might make people slow down a little bit and see the virtue of paying down some debt before issuing new and more debt. Somehow when you are spending more of your own money instead of someone else's, you tend to be a little wiser with how you spend it. When it takes food out of your own kid's mouths instead of mine, you tend to slow up on the spending.

Bottom line is- If you aren't a property based business then you are not paying your fair share in property taxes. Sure your taxes will go up a little bit, and sure you'll be able to convince yourself that you are doing your fair share, but the reality is, it isn't fair, and if you do vote taxes on to a group of people who can't defend themselves, and I will again be blunt, that makes you a bully. Anytime someone bigger imposes their will on someone smaller, it's bullying. Any leader that causes others to sacrifice more than they do are not very good leaders.

Voting a PPEL is an unfair tax on property owners, it's bullying. What it boils down to is this-- if the people in town with greater numbers vote a tax on farmers and small businesses with less numbers, is that bullying? Anytime someone bigger imposes their will on someone who can't defend against it, it's bullying. It doesn't matter if it is an eighth grader taking a quarter for milk money from a fifth grader, or if it is a majority in town taking an extra 1000 from every farmer in the district. Can that fifth grader do without milk for a day? Sure. Can most farmers muster up another grand in a year? Maybe on most years, until you hit a year like this year, but the point is- bullying is bullying. The fifth grader shouldn't be forced to do without milk. Farmers and property owners shouldn't be forced into paying for a new school. I don't care for bullying. I don't care to be bullied. I'm going to campaign against it.



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