On Nov. 7, 2017, the voters will go to the polls to vote on the Hays USD 489 school board’s proposed $154 million tax increase on property owners. Before making a decision, voters should consider a few things.
First, the school board is seeking to put a proverbial anchor around the necks of property owners by increasing their taxes for the next 30 years. Think about that for a moment. I have a 30-year-old child who lives in Hays and owns property with her husband. If voters approve this $154 million tax increase, she will pay for it until she is 60. This proposed tax increase will last an entire generation of people.
Second, the negative impact on our local economy which is already suffering from low agricultural and oil prices and decelerating retail sales seems to be lost on the educationalists (not a real word, just a made-up term which attempts to characterize the “no amount of money is too much to spend on our children” crowd) who came up with the plans. More importantly, they failed to inform the public that with a negative tax multiplier of 3, private spending will be reduced by $3 for each dollar rise in taxes. According to academic research brought to light by Hays City Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV, that equates to a negative local economic impact of $452 million.
Let me use a biblical analogy. The $154 million tax increase passes; it triggers a local economic downward death spiral; it begets tax increases on property owners for the next 30 years; which begets less spending by consumers on cars, at restaurants and retail stores; which begets seniors on fixed, limited incomes forced to restrict their spending; which begets even less sales tax revenues for the City of Hays (which are already decreasing) to fund its budget; which begets city spending cuts or even more property tax increase (only choices available); which begets lower real estate valuations and a housing rents price war; which begets even less spending by consumers locally, less sales tax revenue, higher property taxes due to lower valuations, etc. The $154 million tax increase thus effects an economic downward spiral until some sort of bottom is reached in the next 30 years.
Third, it’s not as if people didn’t tell the school board they wanted more frequent, less expensive bond proposals. The school board’s own polling informed them that 60 percent of the community desires this. Also 58 percent of those polled said they were willing to spend no more than $0 to $10 per month so, dismissively, the school board decides to raise taxes by about $17 per month on the average valued house in Hays. Unfortunately, in what appears to be the norm, the school board, the out-of-town architects, the school administrators and Vision Team members simply chose to ignore the wishes of the community. And the school board’s slick four-colored “informational” brochures purposely leave out the facts that the condition of the schools that truly are needs (two new elementary schools simply are wants, not needs) can be addressed with far less money than the school board is willing to consider.
It’s no secret that the “educationalists” are counting on those who are opposed to the gargantuan $154 million tax increase to stay at home on election day. The only question remaining is will the voters prove them correct? Will property owners who believe that such a massive tax increase in their taxes is a tad too much make the classic mistake on election day and stay at home because they naively believe voters will never trust the school board to spend the $154 million wisely? Or has the school board once again failed to grasp and appreciate the depth and breadth of the opinions of the community at large who believe that new brick and mortar and right size classrooms doesn’t equal better educational results and who tried to tell the school board that smaller and frequent is the way to go.
In the end, this much is certain. If the $154 million tax increase passes, people will pay increased property taxes for the next 30 years. Nothing like economically tying the community’s hands behind its back for an entire generation.
Thomas M. Wasinger,