It is the season of local elections in my quiet Chicago suburb. In a few days, we’ll be voting for board members for an elementary school district, high school district, junior college, park district and library board. There are others, but I’d have to look at the sample ballot to remember them all.
All the candidates have two things in common:
- They claim to support prudent spending.
- They want to expand programs and buildings.
I’m no financial genius, but it is difficult to reconcile these two approaches. Having said that, the elementary school district uses a novel approach. They claim that if I vote for their bond proposal my taxes will go down. This is a remarkable twisting of the facts, likely to be difficult to follow, but I’ll try to explain.
The district is paying off its last bond issue, which means taxes will go down. If the new bond issue passes, it will raise taxes, but less than they go down with the payoff of the previous issues. What the pro-bond campaign doesn’t mention is that if the new bonds are rejected, my taxes will go down twice as much.
I know this is confusing. But I do understand why the district wants more money; they want to build additions that would eliminate the need for portable classrooms at a couple schools. The “portable” classrooms are used at schools across the country and are nicer than the homes millions of Americans live in.
But instead of building more classrooms, there would be the option of putting more kids in a smaller number of classrooms, rearranging space or staggering some subjects. I’ve been on the boards of several Catholic schools and those are the sorts of things Catholics do. But this is a public district. So the answer to a problem is to raise taxes. That’s how wants turn into needs.
Catholic schools – and the parents who send their children to them – have learned to be satisfied with needs and let wants go. When parents pay tuition (above the public school property taxes) to send their kids to Catholic school, they get really cost conscious. They understand that education is a mission that often requires doing more with less.
I can pick out the Catholic-occupied homes in my neighborhood. They have the most toys in the yard and the most obvious evidence of deferred maintenance. If you have several kids and are sending them to Catholic school, you likely don’t have a landscape service and annual exterior painting.
But you have a better chance of producing the next generation of practicing Christians.
Campaign signs have sprouted up in every yard in my neighborhood. They all ask for something. On the surface, they want my vote. Beneath that, most want access to my bank account.
I really wish various government organizations would stop trying to do more and try to figure out ways to avoid interfering in my life. To demonstrate my commitment to non-support, I posted my own yard sign quoting Groucho Marx, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”
The world needs more Grouchos.