Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 75
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for February 8, 2001

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

Dear Editor

Have you heard about the attempt by school boards to make it easier for school districts to increase their debt load (and raise your property taxes)? One approach is via a petition drive, the other via the legislature (HJR5, which our own Representative Williams has signed on to). If eventually placed on the ballot and passed, school boards would be allowed to issue bonds with the approval of a simple majority of votes at the April and November elections. Currently, a 4/7 majority is required.

This nationís founders, in their wisdom, required a supermajority for certain important decisions, including constitutional amendment, conviction of impeachment and veto overrides. Those who wrote our Missouri state constitution, well aware of the debacles that accompanied the issuance of railroad bonds in the latter half of the 19th Century, decided that votes to increase public indebtedness are sufficiently important to require support of a supermajority of state voters.

Whenever a governmental body issues bonds, it binds the taxpayers to make payments for the life of the bonds, often 20 to 30 years. People not yet eligible to vote (and perhaps even not yet born) will bear much of the burden of these taxes. In the case of school bonds, the childless and the elderly pay, as well. Even the propertyless poor end up paying, as increased property taxes cause higher rents. This long term effect of bonds is why there needs to be a clear consensus in favor of debt. Without the supermajority requirement, one vote of 10,000 would bind all citizens to pay for decades for an issue whose support was not certain.

We have seen in the Kansas City fiasco that spending money on facilities does not necessarily make a school system work. At the local level, we have seen well-justified school bond issues pass. If the bond issue is sufficiently worthy it will pass under the current requirements; there is no need to change them.

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