7/24/2012

Small Town Politics

Here in the Small Town, we have an election coming up on Aug. 2nd.  The Small Town schools are overcrowded, partially due to what is called "tuition students".  In our county, we have a county school system, and 2 separate city schools.  If a parent who lives in the county wants their child to attend a city school, then they can pay tuition.  We've had tuition students ever since I can remember; it's just part of the Small Town Schools.  Tuition is next to nothing:  $500/year.  Yep, that's not a typo.  Right now, approximately 24% of students pay to attend a school in the Small Town.

The solution:  build a new, bigger high school so that the population can be shifted:  the elementary school will house Pre-K through 2nd grade, the middle school will house 3rd through 5th, the high school will house 6th through 8th, and the new high school will house 9th through 12th.  I had a lengthy discussion with the current director of schools, and the former director joined in the discussion at the end.  My thought is:  if we're overcrowded, get rid of the tuition students.  When we moved to the small town, we had a bit of a problem finding a house within the town's limits. (Yes, I started checking the obituaries for houses that had become available!)  When I questioned about what would happen if we found a house in the county, I was told that my oldest would be allowed to stay for the rest of the year, but then would have to go to a county school the next year due to overcrowding.  That still burns me up:  my child was going to be denied to continue at my alma mater, but yet other students were going to be allowed to pay to attend that school?  Luckily we found a house in the town's limits, so that wasn't an issue.  My point being:  if we had to find a house in the small town so the boys could go to school there, other people should have to as well.  The system can pick and choose the students when it comes to tuition students:  they are interviewed, and if they don't keep up their grades, behavior, and attendance, they're out.  So...it boils down to test scores.  My argument is that if tuition students were eliminated, the students will get more individual attention, which could raise their scores.  The counter-argument is that if the tuition students are eliminated, the courses that are offered now wouldn't be able to be offered due to lower enrollment.

When I graduated from Small Town High, there were a little over 300 students; 30 years (YIKES!) later, there are over 500.  The director said that they are anticipating that the new high school will hold around 1000, which should hold them for another 25 years.  He had some valid points.

Which brings me back to the election.  We will be voting on a sales tax increase to fund the new building.  The good thing is that anyone who shops or eats out in the small town will be funding the new building.  However, we've received a couple of flyers in the mail asking for support.  The flyer states, "If voters choose not to approve a half-cent sales tax, the only alternative to pay for the new high school is a 40 cent increase in the property tax that will be a burden for Small Town businesses and property owners."  That makes the property tax increase sound like it's a done deal if the sales tax doesn't pass,, right?  Well.  I talked to one of the city commissioners, and he said that the property tax increase would have to come before the commissioners, and he didn't think he could support it.  That makes me wonder how many people in the small town who have "vote yes" signs in their yard have been bullied into thinking their taxes are going to go up if the sales tax is defeated?  I spoke with someone in the small town government, and his explanation was that "the message is that if the sales tax is defeated, the new high school will not be built because no one in government will approve a property tax increase."  Uh...no.  I told him that the average citizen would not get that message because of how it's stated in the flyer.  The average citizen would take it to mean that if the sales tax increase doesn't pass, our property taxes are going up.  I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe, they should get an "average citizen" to read over things they send out before they're sent out to the population.

Will I vote for the sales tax increase?  When I began talking to the director of schools, I told him I was voting "no".  After listening to him, I told him I was a "maybe".  Now?  I just don't know.  The rebellious (and hormonal!) side of me says to vote "no" just to show them that I won't be bullied.  I'm just going to have to give it some more serious thought.

5 comments:

  1. Our hs was renovated recently and monies were earmarked strictly for the building itself. There were monies remaining and the school wanted to put it toward a new track. In addition our taxes would go up 40$/year to fund the whole project which of course is now more than a track. Currently the school can't host home meets because the track is ridiculous. They were not allowed to just move the money to that, it had to be voted on and was voted down. People didn't understand it...what's 40$ a year? I said that I think people are in total rebellion over taxes (especially HERE!!) and don't want to pay another 4cents, much less 40$.

    I am never in favor of more taxes but I do think the improvements are needed to keep home values up. It's the only highschool in our town.

    We're a small town too : )

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  2. Oh my goodness! The whole story is so twisted, isn't it? Money is the root of all evil. I heard that so many times in my life. That and money talks. Very frustrating.

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  3. Maybe a better solution would be to charge more tuition. If out-of-town students want to attend, then let them pay for it. It probably costs the small-town residents more than $500 (in taxes) to support the schools, so the out-of-towners are getting off way too easy ... on the backs of the small-town residents. And if the out-of-town students paid more, there'd be more money available for expansion, etc. Just the first thought that came to my mind.

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  4. I would have a hard time with this one since my kids are out of school and no grandkids (thankfully) on the horizon going into the school system so on school issues (bad here) that there is a raise on any type of tax I tend to vote "no".Yet I do realize crowded schools are not good learning environments. I'd vote for the country kids to be eiminated; maybe only have a certain number that can attend based on numbers available. That's how schools here deal with kids wanting to attend a school out of their district; so many spots and you apply for them, etc. Should indeed be an interesting next few weeks before the election!

    betty

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  5. I can understand how difficult this decision is. We're facing a huge referendum this year that lumps a sports complex in with technology and buildings and grounds needs. It's going to be a tough one. The unsettling thing is that, as in your town, people will vote based on misinformation; getting the correct stuff out there will be important. (And no, I don't know how I'm going to vote, either.)

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