Saturday, March 18, 2006

What do they do with the money? - A state senate candidate who gets it.

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Daily Southtown If you live in District 19 you may want to vote for Eric M. Wallace for Senate.

"Why do districts keep asking for money?"

The recent article by Kati Phillips (March 6) about school referendums asks a good question but does not come up with the right answer. The only thing I agree with her on is that people will spend money on new construction if there is overcrowding. This is a no-brainer and easy to evaluate. It is tangible. What is not easy to see is that schools need more money to improve the quality of education. What is not easy to see is whether the district is spending its money (actually our money) wisely.

People balk at spending money when the results are poor to mediocre. People, taxpayers, balk at higher property taxes when there is no evidence that they will get a better return on their investment. Actually, we intuitively know that the opposite is true. We know that higher property taxes chase away new streams of revenue. The higher the property tax, the least likely you will have new homebuyers move into your town, or new homes built in your area, and the more likely new businesses will pass up your community and old businesses will relocate or close up shop. Thus we are left with a system that chokes off any possibility of new revenue.

But we continue to hike the property tax, telling people it is for the children. We are told it is only a few more dollars a year. What you are not told is that the assessment on your property is about to go up 1.9 percent (in Cook County), that the value of your house has also gone up along with all your utilities. What was a few dollars has now mushroomed into $500 to $1,200 more. Who can afford this? And the money is to be used for what?

The real question is why aren't the school districts better stewards of our money? Why aren't we looking outside the box to create better revenue streams while keeping our taxes low? When was the last time the district was audited? What did you do with the last increase? These are the right questions. Now if we could only get some answers (the right answers). Then maybe, just maybe, we could get a handle on the school funding problem, and at the same time begin to tackle the quality of education, which is a subject for another day. But back to the original question, why do school districts keep asking for money? The answer: because they misspent the last installment of your tax dollars.

Eric M. Wallace
Candidate for state Senate, 19th District

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