Q&A of the day - About the School tax increases passed in South Florida

Q&A of the day –About the School tax increases passed in South Florida last fall

It’s the Q&A of the day. Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Here’s today’s question…

Brian, I'm a long-time morning listener and appreciate your common sense and understanding of basic human behavior.

I have an ongoing pain from the 2018 school tax referendum. Many problems with it, but here are three that I think the public should hear about.  

1.The wording: "Shall the School Board of Palm Beach County have authority to levy 1.00 mills of ad valorem millage dedicated for operational needs of District public schools to fund school safety equipment, hire additional school police and mental health professionals, fund arts, music, physical education, career and choice program teachers, and improve teacher pay beginning July 1, 2019 and automatically ending June 30, 2023, with oversight by an independent finance committee of citizens and experts?"

This seems to imply to me that the thrust of this tax is for school safety, since safety equipment and police officers are listed first. The last thing listed is "improve teacher pay", when in point of fact the teacher pay is by far the largest part (approx. 50%) of this cash grab. Most of the barrage of marketing I heard for this focused on safety for schools. I don't begrudge teachers a competitive wage, but I feel the tax payers were scammed and taken advantage of in the wake of the MSD massacre.

2.The "automatically ending" in 4 years thing. A complete an utter lie! Since the vast majority of money is going to increased salaries and more staff, an ending of this tax would mean salary cuts and large layoffs. This is never going to happen. This tax is effectively permanent as it will have to be renewed, and probably increased again.

3.They cut the charter schools out.How is this fair, and how will the charter schools attract and retain good teachers when this new tax puts them at a distinct pay disadvantage. This is the government (school board and unions) systematically attacking the charters financially.   

Bottom Line: Sadly, you have reason to be skeptical. I covered this ballot question last October in advance of the elections. Here’s my summary of the of it...

Thoughts: In my view this initiative is as offensive as it is disingenuous. Just two years ago the 16.7% sales tax increase was sought by the Palm Beach County School District and passed. The reasons provided then were much the same. Despite a huge jump in revenue as 50% of that sales tax increase goes directly to the Palm Beach County School District, they’re back for more. Here are the facts: 

Since 2011 in Palm Beach County:  

  • Revenue is up 28% to $1.86 billion annually (from $1.45 billion) 
  • Total student population is up 10% (from 175,000 to 193,000) 
  • Total revenue has grown 18% faster than student counts 

Additionally, Palm Beach County already has more revenue and more spend per student than Broward or Miami-Dade which sought smaller increases than Palm Beach County is seeking here. What’s more is that they went out of their way to ensure Charter Schools would be cut out as animus over non-traditional public education is once again evidenced. On principal I object to raising the property taxes on the roof over one’s head. Is it right, for example, for retirees on fixed income to be taxed out of their home because they can’t afford property taxes for schools they’ll never use? 

The Palm Beach Countywide question isn’t just something that should be rejected with a no vote. It’s offensive and should be rejected based on a false premise advanced by the PBC School District. 

Other than that, I didn’t and don't really hold an opinion... Btw, let this be a reminder regarding the municipal elections that are just around the corner in March for many South Floridians. 

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