The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
I am incensed! The Warrensburg R-VI school board has decided to put their $900,000-a-year tax increase on the JUNE ballot. They want to sneak it through in an election when they hope only their supporters will vote. It appears that they don’t believe their tax increase will withstand the scrutiny of an informed electorate; I also suspect they will try to run a “stealth” campaign.
According to the County Clerk’s office, the last time we had a June ballot was in 1986 when an 89 cent school levy closely failed; turnout, surprisingly, was pretty good (that’s relatively speaking). While I don’t have exact percentages, it appears to have been about double the last off-year August primary in 1998. So, why might June be considered a good time to push a levy increase?
The pro-tax people start with that built-in constituency - teachers’ unions. Then they convince a few parents that their kids won’t learn to read unless taxes increase. Both of these groups often vacation in August. In the last weeks of school, they’ll use the kids to send out campaign material disguised as “information” or “fact” sheets – since the propaganda will be called “information” it may be prepared and distributed at taxpayer expense. Of course, this avenue is denied to whatever opposition may coalesce.
Who will oppose spending more money “for the children”? We can start with people who are paying too much already; as I addressed in a previous letter, a taxpayer whose property is assessed at the relatively low amount of $10,000 will pay an extra $50; farmers and businesses will pay much more. Perhaps we can add fixed-income citizens who can’t afford the higher taxes on their property or higher rents (rest assured, landlords will have no choice). Then there are people who don’t think throwing money at schools is the answer and who want to see schools exercise fiscal discipline, especially in administration and overhead.
What’s the difference between this increase and the library and ambulance taxes coming up in April? The difference is that the backers of those two taxes are not trying to manipulate results. They placed their issues on the ballot at a major election date, formed legal and accountable campaign committees, show a need that the voters can evaluate and are trying to sway public opinion in an open and honest manner.
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