Learn The Background of Why Tax Fairly is Opposing Proposition K
After the district's November 2015 tax increase attempt failed by a 59% to 41% margin, Tax Fairly welcomed the Kirkwood School Board's request for ideas from residents on how to deal with its budget problem. That invitation was offered in a Feb. 4, 2016, letter to the editor of the Webster-Kirkwood Times.
In response, Tax Fairly suggested several ways the board could cut costs and increase revenue. (All are explained on this website.) The 2016-2017 budget did not reflect any of our suggestions and offered no long-term spending reforms. While the board made short-term cuts, it did not address the long term.
The board's fallback solution? Higher taxes.
That response, we believe, ignores the wishes of the 59 percent of the electorate that indicated it wants relief from ever-increasing taxation.
*** On Nov. 28, 2016, Tax Fairly was invited to meet with district officials to discuss a possible tax increase. On Dec. 7, we met with Superintendent Tom Williams, chief financial officer Mike Romay, board president Darnel Frost and board member Bret Heinrich. They sought Tax Fairly's support for a tax increase and wanted to know what they could offer to gain our support. We offered to advise them on how to lower spending and then determine if a tax increase was warranted. But to do so, we asked for more transparency from the district and more time to research solutions.
We committed to meeting with and advising budget personnel provided they wait until November 2017 for a possible vote on another tax increase. Here is the text of our email and here is a pdf of the email chain that shows that we met with Dr. Williams and that he received of our follow-up correspondence. This exchange clearly shows that we offered to work with the district for a solution and that Dr. Williams' Feb. 2nd statements in the Webster-Kirkwood Times Letter to the editor are misleading. This meeting and the subsequent email confirmation from Dr. Williams that he received our recommendations demonstrates that he is mischaracterizing Tax Fairly.
*** Read the third sentence in our email and then read the first paragraph of his letter (both shown immediately below). Then, ask yourself if you think our position is what he claims it is.
Tax Fairly's December 8th email to Tom Williams: "We believe that we can help you meet the needs of all community stakeholders and ensure passage of a ballot initiative that a high level of the community could support."
Tom William's Feb. 2 letter: I would like to point out that the "no tax under any circumstance group" led by Martin Bennet is only interested in ensuring Kirkwood School District taxes do not increase at any cost (Webster-Kirkwood Times Mailbag Jan. 27)."
It is our belief that April is simply too soon for a vote to add $5.8 million to district spending. Here's why:
1. While Tax Fairly has conducted significant research, a more intensive examination of district spending is needed before we can offer in-depth recommendations.
2. 2017 is a reassessment year in St. Louis County. Overall, home values in the Kirkwood School District are expected to rise. But individual homeowners won't have a final number on their home's value until the end of May. An April vote on school taxes precludes homeowners from accurately estimating its impact on their final tax bill. Waiting until November 2017 would have resolved that issue.
3. The Riverview Gardens School District has been re-certified. That means that many Riverview Gardens students who have been attending Kirkwood schools will return to their home district. (While Riverview students may opt to stay in Kirkwood district, free transportation for them will end.) The final number of returning students, and thus the impact on staffing needs, will not be known until August 2017.
Superintendent Williams, other than thanking us for meeting him, did not respond to our offer. Instead, we learned of the board's Jan. 17 decision to put the tax increase on the April 4 ballot. If the tax increase passes April 4, no doubt among the board's first actions will be to raise every employee's salary. Click on this link to see the Dec. 5, 2016 Kirkwood School Board meeting document that specifies plans to use the tax increase for annual pay raises.
Tax Fairly is strongly pro-education, and believes Kirkwood is populated with people who think likewise. Kirkwood residents have always supported stronger schools, and will continue to do so. But Tax Fairly believes the way to achieve stronger schools is not by throwing more money at every employee irrespective of job performance or type of position.
Under Kirkwood's salary schedule, which rewards only tenure and extra graduate hours, some elementary gym teachers and librarians make about $100,000 a year. Some of the district's best teachers, including those up for state and national honors, make 20 to 30 percent less.
It's how the money is spent, not how much is spent, that is important.
Without fundamental, common-sense change in spending decisions, Tax Fairly of course opposes the tax increase, and urges all taxpayers to examine the issue. Tax Fairly has, and will continue to, put forth ideas on how the Kirkwood School District can solve its budget problem.
If you agree with us, we need your help to convince your neighbors. Please donate and volunteer by signing our supporter list or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.