Friday, November 2, 2007

George Will, John Stossel, Governor Huntsman, Rep. Froerer, For. Edward Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, and the NEA/UEA Union against.

Guest Commentary by Ron Mortensen

Wing men for Property Tax Reform join with " in recommending a vote FOR Referendum 1 (Educational Vouchers) for two primary reasons.

First, public schools have failed to effectively and efficiently use billions of dollars of taxpayer funds leading to excessive taxes and disappointing results.

Second, funding requirements for public schools will increase by billions of dollars in the next decade due to a rapidly growing student population. Coupled with an economic slowdown, this will result in sharply higher property taxes.

Vouchers are obviously not the whole answer to the challenges we face but we believe that a growing, vibrant private school system can help contain property and income taxes by relieving some of the burden on the public schools and on the taxpayers. Furthermore, a strong private school system will encourage public schools to better manage their funds, to upgrade the quality of education provided to students, to be more responsive to parents and to control spending.

Please pass this e-mail on to those on your mailing list.

More detailed information follows below.

Failure to Effectively Use Taxpayer Funds

Wingmen for Property Tax Reform and tax defines tax fairness as the collection of the absolute minimum amount of revenue necessary to fund the core functions of government and as the effective and efficient management of taxpayer funds.

Unfortunately, our public education system has consistently failed to effectively and efficiently use taxpayer funds entrusted to them to educate Utah's children.

Twenty to thirty percent of public school students drop out before graduation. Twenty-six percent of public school students completing the 12 th grade have not passed the 10th grade level Utah Basic Competency Skills Test (UBSCT). Perhaps even worse, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, "the scores of only 24 percent of Utah students who took the ACT last year showed they were ready for college-level work in biology, algebra and English. Ninety percent of jobs that pay a livable salary require the same level of reading and math skills needed to start college."

Incredibly, taxpayers are pouring billions of dollars into a system that fails around 50% of all high school age children and 76% of college bound students who take the ACT.

In addition, our public school districts have been plagued by serious financial irregularities including multi-million dollar losses in the Davis School District. The Davis District's answer to this financial mismanagement and loss of taxpayer funds was to improve internal controls and raise taxes.

In spite of strict certification requirements and stringent background checks, there are frequent stories in the local media about improper behavior by taxpayer funded public school teachers and it is exceptionally difficult to terminate poor performing, certified teachers.

In addition, during the past year, at least two school districts have squandered taxpayer funds that could have been used for class size reduction or classroom supplies defending their refusals to comply with open meeting laws.

The items listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. The consistent failure of the public schools to effectively use taxpayer funds requires us to find new and better ways of educating Utah's children. We believe that the education voucher is one way to more effectively use taxpayer funds and to help make public schools more responsible and accountable to the taxpayers and their students.

Higher Taxes

Over 60% of the property taxes paid by homeowners in Weber and Davis County go to public education (Weber and Davis School District). 100% of state income tax receipts go to public and higher education.

This fall, the enrollment in the Weber and Davis School Districts is up by more than 1,500 additional students. At a cost of at least $7,500 per student, taxpayers will pay a minimum of $11 million more each year for the next twelve years to educate these 1,500 additional children in both Districts. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. If this rate of growth continues for the next ten years, the total cost to taxpayers to educate an additional 15,000 children will be over $1 billion dollars.

This is not just a Weber and Davis County issue. Statewide it is estimated that well over 150,000 additional students will enter the public school system in the next decade. In order to meet this growth, we will need to build, staff and equip 5,000 new classrooms (30 students per class) at a cost of over $225,000 per classroom (30 students X $7,500) for a total of over $100 million per year in new public education spending just to stay even – and this doesn't include any increase for inflation or the costs of new facilities. The total cost to taxpayers to educate these additional 150,000 students from Kindergarten through the 12 th grade will be well in excess of $11 billion.

Unfortunately, the property and income taxes paid by the parents of these new students will not cover the cost to educate them. In addition, it will cost much more than $7,500 per pupil to educate many of the new students due to English as a second language requirements, weak parental support, growing administrative costs and teacher union demands.

While economic growth will help offset some of the additional costs associated with the influx of new students, it is virtually certain that Utah will face one or more economic downturns during the time that these children are in the public schools. In fact, with the cost of a barrel of oil approaching $100 and a rapidly weakening housing market, an economic downturn may come sooner rather than later. When it does, there will be pressure to increase property taxes even more than this years 11.6% statewide average (four to five times the cost of living allowance of 2.67%) to offset lower income tax collections that go to the public schools. Much of that increased property tax burden will fall on homeowners and small business owners. At leasst until our legislature gets off its collective duff and passes significant comprehensive property tax reform.

Therefore, we recommend a vote FOR Referendum 1 (Educational Vouchers) in order to help relieve the burden on taxpayers and public schools.


Katy said...

We have just discovered your blog and the efforts of Huntsville and Eden residents to do something about the property tax injustices.

We are owners of an apartment at Moose Hollow, and we too have been shocked by the increase in taxes. We may not be residents of Ogden
Valley, but we feel the injustice just as much as residents do. We too have mortgages to pay; we too have to sacrifice something to pay a larger amount for services that we don't even receive as non-residents. We too are sometimes obliged to put our property up for sale because we can't pay the tax bill.

What can we do to join the efforts to get things changed in Utah? We are California residents and we appreciate our own Proposition 13 tax benefits. Without them, we would have left the state a long time ago (probably to come to Utah).

Minor Machman said...

Thanks Katy,

I just recieved some information from St. George area and Washington County. They too are very upset about how property taxes have been handled. They are just getting organized and circulating a petition much like we did two months ago. We expect to join forces with Washington County soon and strengthen our Coalition for Property Tax Reform as we merge "Wingmen for Property Tax Reform", "Citizensfortaxfairness" with the thousands expected to join from Washington County petition drive. Our legislators will get the message one way or another. It will be up to them sooner than later. Stay focused and dedicated to our cause. A grassroots revolt will likely be required. And they will need to hear from all of us loudly and clearly. Hopefully the quarter cent tax increase will go down in flames as a sign of our resolve and disgust with property taxation and taxes in general. Glad to have you aboard!