Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Still More Tax Increases

Voters in Kalamazoo County have been repeatedly hit by demands for tax increases over the last few years. Hikes for a juvenile home, bus system, KRESA, and KPS were approved, while hikes for a jail, Croyden school, and Portage schools were rejected.

Still more tax increases are in the pipeline.

The Portage School Board wants a huge tax increase. For the board, it seems the only question is whether the increase should be for $110 million or $125 million. Voters shot down a $145 million tax hike in February.

Voters aren't nearly as thrilled. A survey conducted by the board shows a plurality of voters opposed to either proposal.

Meanwhile, the school officials want to renew the "temporary" KRESA tax increase passed in 2005. The Kalamazoo County Taxpayers Association has the story.


KRESA tax: they lied

In 2005, public school officials in Kalamazoo County placed a 1.5-mill “enhancement” millage on the ballot, which covered the entire KRESA taxing district. At the time, those officials promised that the tax was only “temporary,” and would last only three years.

It now is clear that those officials lied to the voters. School officials are planning to ask for a renewal of the KRESA “enhancement” millage next year, despite their promise that the tax would expire.

If the KRESA “enhancement” millage is placed on the ballot next year, it would be a profound betrayal of trust. Does the word of public officials in Kalamazoo County mean anything? Can they blatantly lie to the voters, and then turn around and ask them for even more money?

School officials are crying poverty, claiming their budget are squeezed and they need the money from the “enhancement” millage. Tough luck. Welcome to the club. The budgets of working families and businesses in Kalamazoo County have been squeezed and cut for several years now due to Michigan’s poor economy.

In fact, school spending habits prove that they have plenty of money in their budgets. A recent Kalamazoo Gazette article (June 3, 2007) shows that public schools in our region are overpaying health care benefits by thousands of dollars per employee, because school districts have a sweetheart contracting deal with MESSA, the teachers’ union insurance provider. By competitively bidding out health insurance, schools could save hundreds of thousands of dollars in their annual budgets.

The Taxpayers Association has one simple message for school officials thinking about renewing the KRESA “enhancement” millage—just say “NO.”

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