Do lockdowns, poor performance, justify $863 million in new taxes
hildren lost a full academic-year from almost 2-years in lock-down, forced to wear masks, get vaccinated or leave school â€“ evidence is emerging this was mostly a ruse. Parents lost jobs to stay home with kids or because employers shut-down. Progressive school superintendents and school boards pressed forward with controversial curriculum and issues, dismissing and disregarding input and pleas for change or compromise from concerned parents and disenfranchised taxpayers.
Against this back-drop of shutdowns, dismal academic performance, disregard for parents and taxpayers, skyrocketing inflation, and a pending economic depression -- eight Oregon school districts decided now would be a perfect time to ask taxpayers for more than $863 million in new taxes. The timing and optics of hitting property owners with $863 million in new taxes could not be more tone-deaf according to many citizens.
District parents, property owners and taxpayers certainly want the best for every student whose only option is public school but these new taxes have nothing to do with students or academics â€“ theyâ€™re about contractors, money and facilities. Many feel this is not the year to ask citizens, especially property owners, to pay higher taxes just as they are paying an extra $250 month for gas and an extra $150 a month for groceries. After all, education and political operatives get two elections cycles a year, each November and May to trot-out tax bond measures. Voters in this Mayâ€™s election should consider the following before voting to increase their tax burden even more for another 20-30 years.
If you review local bond measures the talking points are similar. The same subjective, non-quantifiable buzz-words are parroted, â€œthis money is to make safety and security improvements, improve HVAC systems, make Americans with Disabilities Act updates (a 1990 law)â€ and generic statements such as, â€œto make site improvements, repairs and upgrades, build a new building, remodel roomsâ€. Project Managers suggest that when asking for $20, $30, $100 million dollars there are sound business management protocols.
ome say there should be exact project scope statements for every individual project with cost-analytics, Gantt charts, engineering designs, materials lists -- to the last nail, parts and equipment costs, subcontractor and labor cost, cost-overrun, forecasts and much more. This must be available to taxpayers, contractors, consultants, school boards and other evaluators -- to review, input and mark-up, perhaps years in advance. Asking for such huge sums of money without exact scope or justification is fiscal malpractice and a management failure. School districts and others get away with this year-after-year. This year, voters would be wise to make districts go back to the drawing-board and quantify, objectify and justify every project in detail â€“ every dollar spent is quantifiable. Tax asks would likely come back cut in half or maybe not at all.
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â€œFreeâ€ Federal Money
Congress passed three COVID relief bills. These bills transferred $5.3 trillion from taxpayer pockets to mostly progressive social and welfare programs. Oregon school districts alone received $1.65 billion from the American Rescue Plan and 3 allotments from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds. Allotments from 3 Governors Emergency Education Relief funds brought in another $60 million. There was $30 million for distance learning, $28 million for charter and private schools, $27 million for migrant students and $7 million for teaching English. There is more to be allocated through 2025.
These COVID relief funds are â€œfreeâ€ money, not part of yearly school budgets -- money from the sky. COVID funds were earmarked broadly for COVID related concerns such as, improving safety and security, upgrading HVAC systems and equipment, making site improvements. In short, what almost every district put in their tax bond requests. Since money is fungible, account swaps could easily allow for roof repairs, remodels and other items not specifically earmarked.
For example, the Lebanon School District wants $20 million dollars from taxpayers but got $14 million in free COVID relief money. This money would pay for everything they ask for. Beaverton school district wants $173 million for their tax bond and received nearly $100 million in free money -- thatâ€™s a large bite out of what the district asked for. Before adding to their tax burden for another 20-30 years, taxpayers should be asking, â€œWhere did all that money go?â€ This money was for safety and facility upgrades, not backfilling retirement accounts, bonuses and hiring staff. This could be scandalous -- every penny of school COVID fund money must be publicly accounted for.
Tax bonds are publicly presented as trivial. Typical statements include, â€œonly a 7-cent levyâ€, â€œonly $1.13 per 1000 assessed valueâ€, â€œonly $29 extra a month.â€ A lot is left out. There may be 10-15 local taxing agencies in every tax jurisdiction saying the same thing year-after-year. Taxpayers and school parents from Linn County discovered that, according to the Tax Foundation, Linn County pays the highest property tax as a percentage in Oregon and Lebanon pays the highest rate of cities in the county. A property with a $175,000 assessed value paid $3700 this year but $4200 next year if bonds are approved. Keep in mind, assessors raise property values the maximum legal 3 percent each year, so this $175,000 house will be worth $306,000 or more in 20 years and the tax will then be $7344 yearly â€“ if no new measures are passed--not likely. Exact project expensing and full public disclosure of any future tax burden should be the law.
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The public often opposes additional school tax bonds as well as the integration of progressive social programs in their schools. Understandably, many citizens are incensed when the general publicâ€™s school district website, graphic designers, consultants and others use these public assets as lobbing tools for information, disinformation and messaging -- outlining only the â€œpro-yesâ€ point-of-view and omitting opposing views. Those with opposing views (which exceeds those in favor in a failed bond) must build their own websites, pay their own way. Using Lebanon again, as the example, the district website informs and advocates their viewpoint. The school district just spent as much as $30,000 of all the taxpayerâ€™s money to send out glossy mailers to district residents lobbing only their position for passage of a $20 million bond -- $10 million to repair a $1 million dollar swimming pool. This is the second mailer. This is manipulative. District websites should post all sides on the publicly owned district website. Equal funding and the same mailing lists at school rates should also be provided for mailers and flyers representing all sides in the community.
People pushing tax bonds will highlight their district will get an extra $X-million dollars from the state that will go to another district if the tax bond does not pass. This is not exactly true. This money comes from the Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program. This money is just more taxpayerâ€™s money held by OSCIM, then dangled like bait to incentivize local school districts to raise taxes on property owners. OSCIM money for districts actually increases each year if not used.
Education is changing. Parents are abandoning progressive, union controlled monolithic public-school systems in favor of small independent neighborhood schools, circa 1950, charter schools, private schools, Christian schools, online learning and homeschooling where they have a choice, a voice and control over their childrenâ€™s education. Money needs to follow students not government facilities. Taxpayers should also be wary of being on the hook for 20-30 years for upkeep and maintenance of abandoned, empty school buildings. Progressive school administrators continually suggest such taxes are an â€œinvestmentâ€ in our communities. Informed citizens know investments return money to investors -- this is just more taxing and spending.
The only way citizens can ever reign-in an organized, self-serving, out-of-control government is to cut off the money supply until they listen.
|Post Date: 2022-05-02 08:36:49||Last Update: 2022-05-02 09:42:16|