Vail Daily letters to the editor
Vail, CO, Colorado
Raising school taxes 101
I have now received the notice sent to all registered voters outlining the Ballot Issue 3B to permanently raise the Eagle county school tax mill levy. Frankly, I was disappointed.
The “against” statements included five concise reasons. The “for” statements was very long, laid out in paragraph form and included “motherhood” and fear alerts. However, buried in this mishmash are some reasonable explanations and facts, which is good.
I would suggest voters consider the following in addition to the information included in the mass mailing:
n Perspective: Gov. Hickenlooper was recently asked why he has not taken a position on the statewide ballot issue Proposition 103 to raise income and sales tax, sunsetting after five years, channeling the funds to public education. His response was, yes there would be value to education, but is the cost worth the payback — a decision the voters must take.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
n Forever taxes: We now hear the “forever” term when we buy “forever” stamps, but in today’s economic climate shouldn’t we have a sunset provision for any new taxes?
o Information, information, information: Eagle county voters have been asked more money for schools over time, including for new buildings, upgraded computers and a permanent cost-of-living kicker for staff. It would have been nice to have this information explained to voters to help in our decision, coupled with some user-friendly pie charts and graphs explaining all this stuff.
o Improvements, improvements, improvements: The single biggest missing element in the “for” positions is to explain what effectiveness (doing the right thing) and efficiencies (doing the thing right) has the school system accomplished. This is not about student achievement — which has been hashed over many times. This is about the process of teaching (recruitment, mentoring, class-size decisions, renumeration, etc.), and non-teaching services (administration, transportation, food service, health services, etc.). No doubt there have been many improvements and hopefully some “out of the box.”
But without a visible, structured, ongoing, bottom-up improvement program with quantifiable measurements, it falls short of what leading-edge private industry and government operations — including schools — are doing today.
My comments are all about process. As voters, we must decide what to do considering a number of facts.
Why I’m voting no to school tax hike
My vote on 3B, the school district tax increase, will be no. Before everyone accuses me of not caring about the future of our kids and schools, please hear me out. This conversation has come up with many of my friends lately and almost all of them feel the same as I do, so I’ll take the heat so that these opinions get voiced.
I fully comprehend the whole idea of our taxes going to fund public services like police, fire, infrastructure, etc., but the difference here is that we all benefit relatively equally from those services. This is not the case with the school system, and the makeup of Eagle County is pretty different than other counties in the state.
According to the info on the Eagle County home page (www.eaglecounty.us/localinfo/Quick_Facts/ ) the population of Eagle County is 52,197. There are approximately 19,236 occupied household units and 31,312 housing units. That 31,000-plus housing units are what personal property tax is paid on to the county. There are less than 6,000 children in Eagle county schools. Even if every child in the school system was an only child (not the case) then four-fifths of the people who pay property taxes do not have any children in the schools. Many do not have children and many (especially second-home owners) have raised their kids elswhere.
I am in no way suggesting that those without kids shouldn’t pay their fair share. But what happened to personal responsibility for those that have children? If you choose to have children, then maybe you should pay in a bit more rather than expect the 80-plus percent of us that don’t to foot the lions share. Change the formula a bit so that those without children pay 50 percent of the cost of the schools and those with children pay the other 50 percent.
My personal experience is that most of my friends do not have kids. There are 20 people in where I work and only two have children. On my street there are 36 housing units and only three of those have kids living there.
My property taxes that go to the schools total about $1,100. Someone with three kids might also pay $1,100. If they are renting, then they are not really paying into the schools at all. How is that fair?
Again, I don’t think we should pay nothing. I just think the ones getting the benefits should pay a bit more.
We’ve all had to tighten our belts lately. There are two measures on the ballot to increase our taxes for the schools: one state measure to increase the income tax and the 3B county measure to increase the property taxes we pay in Eagle County.
I, personally, am tired of watching my savings and eventual retirement egg dwindle each year because I pay to send someone else’s kids to school. They made the decision to have children. Maybe they should have to budget for their education.
Let the hate mail begin.
Stupid not to pass school tax
I was very disturbed that you included Buddy Shipley’s ignorant, hateful and irresponsible comments in your article about school district funding challenges.
School district employees are a dedicated group of people who have worked very hard to make due with savage cuts in the budget over the last three years. Some of the top administrators have extensive education, experience and expertise in their fields and would be earning double or triple their salaries if employed in the private sector.
Their sacrifices and dedication to Eagle County Schools are not financially rewarding, and the benefits of living in a beautiful place are tempered with the stress of making ends meet in an expensive resort community. How dare you, Buddy!
Let me try to get through the thick skulls of any like-minded folks opposing a school tax increase. Right now, our property taxes are the primary source of school funding. What’s happened to property values and delinquencies in the last three years? Bingo! And where do those taxes go? They go directly to the state of Colorado, where through a very complex formula that few understand, they are lumped together and redistributed to each school district.
So the schools in this rich community only receive a fractional portion of all our property taxes, which are drastically lower than four years ago. Still don’t get it? Read on.
Communities that lose schools or suffer reductions in education quality also lose working middle class families. Who wants to make the sacrifices required to live here and send their kids to poor quality schools? Right now our schools are providing a better than average education while funding per student is 49th out of 50 states — only $6,700 per student. That’s nothing short of heroic. Our Wyoming neighbors fund over $16,000 per student.
Without adequate school funding, foreclosures increase and property values suffer. Maybe Buddy wants to live in a community where only the super-rich and very poor servants live with lots of vacant and decaying half-million dollar homes. Way to go, Buddy! Cut off your nose to spite your face.
Consider this. Our property taxes are about the lowest in the U.S. Fact: Colorado is ranked 48th out of 50 states for total tax burden. The proposed mill levy override will add a measly $120 a year in tax per $500,000 of property value. If that isn’t the cheapest investment in our community that a property owner can make, then I don’t know what is. This is the most economical way to protect our property values. Come on people, this is a no-brainer. Vote yes!
Coaches can be questioned
Dear Bill Carty: I personally am offended at the accusation that a person of Ernie’s background had no knowledge to teach children and young adults the benefits of sports in our society. I would like to point out that just because a coach of a program — whether it be volleyball, baseball, basketball or any other program in this valley — does not mean a coach is perfect or even correct in the way they run a program.
The nice thing about feedback to a coach is: 1. They can hear the concerns of a community. 2. A great coach will take the feedback and maybe do a little self evaluation of ones self and their program. 3. maybe communicate more with the athlete, parents and fans.
Last but not least I would like to add that I have lived in the valley for 43 years and have never heard of your name associated with any program. Should we jump to conclusions about you?
I took it that Ernie was just voicing an opinion that he may have heard in the stands of a game coming from other fans. Everyone does have the right to point out what they believe may be a shortcoming in any program. I don’t believe that people should have to remain silet in the event that good may come of it.
Writing a hateful letter to defend a friend was not necessary on your part. Thank you for your time. We are all in this for our children’s future.
Doubting global warming research
When Scott Glasser’s comment of Sept. 26 referred to me indirectly as an “inaccurate” and “irresponsible” “fool” for challenging the theory that human carbon dioxide emission was causing “global warming-climate change,” I felt compelled to respond. My Sept. 30 comment cited the facts and the data that supported my challenge to the theory.
In that commentary, Glasser defended what has been come to be known as the Mann “hockey stick” curve. I responded in my commentary with the well documented criticism of it from a large number of scientists who carefully reviewed his claims. Also, the so-called “climategate” emails revealed what I consider to be an appalling lack of scientific integrity and manipulations by a cabal of advocates of that theory.
Dr. Mann responded on Oct. 1, accusing me of “false and defamatory statements” packed with “lies and distortions”; of “lying to the public about science”; of a “string of lies tied together.” He stated my “lies are pernicious” and that I am a “charleton.”
In his response, Mann uses an ad hominem overkill accusing me of lies and lying some six times! Methinks he doth protest too much.
When I am engaged in a scientific dispute with an adversary and that opponent, instead of citing the facts or the data that might support his argument, directs an intense barrage of ad hominem slurs toward me, I am fully confident that I am winning the argument.
My response now is to cite the data. The IPCC report of 1990 prior to Mann’s publication of his “hockey stick” showed a Medieval Warm Period considerably warmer than today with its peak temperature in about 1250 A.D. That was followed by a Little Ice Age considerably colder than today with its coldest average temperature in about 1700.
Mann’s “hockey stick” curve shows a flat line temperature during those same periods. It finally got rid of the embarrassing Medieval Warm Period that the “climategate” cabal hated so much because it showed a higher temperature than today at a time when the human emission of carbon dioxide was trivial. The more recent and I believe reliable reconstruction for the same time period using 18 other different temperature proxies reaffirm the 1990 IPCC report. The pesky Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age that Mann obliterated with his “hockey stick” are still there!
For a detailed look at that data and much more, go to http://www.youtube.com and enter “climategate” and “hertzberg” in the search column. For a more detailed discussion of the “hide the decline” issue, go to Prof. Richard Muller’s talk on the subject at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88Qpciw8suk.
In any case, don’t take my word of someone like me who Mann characterized as a “charleton.” Here is the much earlier opinion of a distinguished Australian scientist, John Daly:
“The evidence is overwhelming from all corners of the world, the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age clearly show up in a variety of proxy indicators, proxies more representative of temperature than inadequate tree ring data.
“What is disquieting about the hockey stick is not its original publication. As with any paper, it would sink into oblivion if found to be flawed. Rather it was the reaction of the greenhouse industry to it — the chorus of approval, the complete lack of critical evaluation of the theory, the blind acceptance of evidence that was so flimsy. The industry embraced the theory for one reason and one reason only — it told them exactly what they wanted to hear.”
Not long after those comments were written, John Daly died. In one of the climategate e-mails, his death is mentioned as a kind of fortunate occurrence, some “cheering news” that removed one of their adversaries.
So much for scientific integrity!
Dr. Martin Hertzberg
Editor’s note: The “hockey stick” is at the core of debate over comparative global temperatures through time. While most studies support the “hockey stick” pattern, several do not, and so the debate continues on this and other aspects of the global change theories. We’ll remind readers that there’s good reason we’re running these commentaries in the opinion forum, whose function is expression of viewpoints and not purporting to offer definitive answers.
Cut to the bone already
Oh Buddy (Shipley), you are so angry and rather confused. I quote you, “If these elected officials-school bureaucrats cannot bring themselves to get their spending habits under control, if they cannot manage their budgets and learn to live within their means … then they should be fired because they work for us and they are inept.”
I agree with what you said. I am a fiscal conservative myself. I do not spend more than I make.
Perhaps you are unaware that our Eagle County School District has had a “savings” of $12 million that they have been dipping into to offset the unexpected, I repeat, unexpected shortcomings of property taxes in the county and state funding. They have repeatedly lived within their means, and saved in the process.
The budget shortfall was unforseen and is not caused by the school district as you seem to imply. Had the housing bubble been the technology bubble, it would have had little effect on the school budget when it burst. Property taxes are usually consistent, the value of homes rarely dips so dramatically as they did these last few years and that’s what makes the shortfalls so dire, not the spending habits of your “elected officials and school bureaucrats.”
You may argue with me, but I feel that educating is a moral obligation for any culture whether or not you have children in the system. Cutting services only means a serious decrease in the quality of education, a monumental disaster for our community. Years from now you will be complaining that you can’t get any good help in your business, that employees are under qualified …. It all starts with reading, writing and arithmetic.
I am fine with paying the $21 a year per $100,000 of my home value. On our $300,000 home, it’s about $5 a month ($61 per year). I guess I can go without one Wendy’s single a month to offer my three kids and my neighbor’s children and yours, Buddy, if you have any, a quality education that has been offered in our district for years. I choose not to diminish the high standards, low class sizes and opportunities because of an economic blip that was neither created or encouraged by the education officials in this county.
I have seen them seriously struggle to cut back and have they been able to without diminishing the quality of education. I feel they have done everything possible at this point. Further cuts at this point will have disasterous results.
You may think I am selfish in my logic when I tell you I am the librarian at an elementary school and a mother of three Eagle County students. However, I am taxpayer, a homeowner, and an empathetic person who sees that funding our schools will go beyond my family, my job and affect thousands of students in our district for years to come. I endorse a “yes” vote on 3B.