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Some Questions for Jackson Kids First

Just the facts.

Just the facts...

I recently noticed some signs around town from Jackson Kids First. Apparently, this groups supports the city issuing a new bond that will extend the current school bond for an as yet unstated period of time. Their flyer I received in my mailbox the other day boldly states “no tax increase!”

So, I headed over to their website and perused the questions section:

What does a no-tax-rate increase mean?

The district maintains an overall tax rate of $3.80 per $1,000 of assessed value.  Approximately $0.33 of this levy is directed for bond payments (debt service).   A no-tax-rate increase means the district can service the existing and proposed bonds while maintaining a tax rate of $3.80.

If the bond issue does not pass, will my taxes go down?

Taxes would not go down if the bond issue does not pass.  The district has existing bonds it must retire with the current tax levy.  The proposed bond issue will ultimately represent an extension of the levy.

Being the curious type of person that I am, I have a few questions of my own that I posted in the comments section of the Jackson Kids First questions section:

  • How many years will the tax rate be extended?
  • What will the interest on the bond be?
  • What is the projected interest that will be paid and how much of the $3.80 per assessed $1,000 valuation will go toward servicing this new debt?
  • With the increase of foreclosures in the area (I live right next door to an abandoned house) will our property valuations be increased to make up the difference? What about the valuations assessed on cars, motorcycles, boats, etc?

Of course, I remember hearing a pledge about no new taxes before…

Campaigns like the Jackson Kids First one are symptomatic of political dialogue and decision-making in the United States and its local communities. The facts are hidden from public view. Sweet promises are made of no tax rate increases. But, there is seldom a full discussion and disclosure of the facts.

I’m sure someone out there will accuse me of hating kids or not wanting them to have a brighter future. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the ability to analyze a challenging situation, evaluate the arguments being made, and develop a situation which resolves the problem in a cost-efficient and fair manner.

There is never something for nothing. Everything has a cost and a benefit. If we direct our spending in one direction, we divert it from another direction. Education is one investment in the future. There are others. When someone asks me to invest, I like to know the costs and benefits. I don’t want clever lines about no tax increases. I want to know the facts – just the facts so I can make an informed decision. If an organization can’t do this with something so basic as funding a new school, they should expect a no vote.

Update 3-19-12

Oh the irony! Jackson Kids First wants to extend our assessed property valuation taxes for an as yet undefined period of time, but it looks like they can’t keep their website up and running. Hmmm…maybe they forgot to pay the bill. Perhaps they were promised even more bandwidth goodness with no increase in their bill. Whatever the case, I haven’t been able to find out yet whether they answered my questions posed above in the original blog post. Maybe it’s just Karma – that’s why when you try to take other people’s money you should give them the whole truth, not just the part you want them to hear. The universe has a way of balancing the account – even turning off your website it appears.

Update 3-23-12

Well, as expected, no answer from Jackson Kids First to any of my questions posed above. I am not easily deterred, so I posted the same question to the Jackson Kids First Facebook Page. I find the Jackson Kids First website and Facebook page annoying – with all the softball questions and answers. It seems to me that educated adults should be able to answer questions in a reasonable amount of time, as well as defend their position and provide supporting arguments for their point-of-view. Since the 1960’s, if not before, our public discourse has diminished greatly. Just look at our politics and the level of debate. Where is the candidate who can carry out a reasoned debate, ask intelligent questions, answer questions honestly, define the costs / benefits / sacrifices of their proposals, etc.? How many of these candidates were educated in public schools.

I was educated in a small public school in Washington state. One of my favorite classes was our humanities honors class. The students were taught to read, write, think, support their arguments, and learn. It isn’t enough to teach facts – student must be taught to think. While the physical infrastructure of education – the school itself, and the tools – textbooks, computers, labs, etc. – are important, the educational process and those who deliver it are paramount. If we are serious about “putting kids first”, then we should invest our effort in ensuring that we deliver the right kind of education that allows children to adapt to a world that is constantly evolving and gives them ability to evaluate and analyze a wide variety of arguments and situations for themselves and render an intelligent decision. Whether we educate kids in a little red schoolhouse, or the most modern school imaginable won’t matter much if we fail them to think for themselves.

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