[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: New Property Tax Proposal and Schools

Thursday, April 03, 2008

New Property Tax Proposal and Schools

The latest stab at Florida property tax reform looks to be gaining steam towards a November referendum.

At stake: funding for public school districts.

Here's a pretty balanced article from a couple of weeks ago in the Palm Beach Post. Basically, the proposed amendment would raise sales taxes by 1% to partially offset the anticipated lost tax revenue to schools. Property taxes could be cut by 25-30%, according to some estimates.

As much as I am in favor of property tax reform, this plan doesn't sit right with me. I agree that raising the sales tax by 1% shouldn't be looked at as an increased burden on the poor. Sales tax is a consumption tax, and items such as food and medicine would continue to not be taxed under the latest proposal. However, cutting about 25-30% off our property taxes via eliminating the portion of the tax that goes to schools is cause for concern. Is it really good to shift the burden of revenue from the locals to the state? I don't know. I would much rather have locals control where our school money is going than to relinquish it to a state entity.

As an example, consider that the Florida Legislature is proposing to cut $219 million in spending for the 2008-2009 school year. According to this Sun-Sentinel article, 60 percent of that amount will come from the three-most populous counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, which combined educate 30% of the state's public school students.

Uneven burden? You bet.

Of course, our local school districts haven't always been good stewards of our money. Teachers are perennially under-paid while many administrators make six-figures and get perks such as vehicles. In this day when politicians are looking to make broad cuts in education, is it right for administrators to drive around in taxpayer-funded Ford Explorers while teachers pay out of their pockets for classroom materials?

On top of this, the Miami Herald is reporting today that bonuses for nationally certified teachers could be cut next school year. Talk about eliminating any incentive for teachers to not only make more money, but to become better at their profession.

Who can we trust with school funding? Anyone have any ideas?

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