Elkhart Superintendent Robert Haworth and Concord Superintendent Wayne Stubbs have expressed their gratitude to the public for agreeing to pay more taxes to give financial support to the schools.
Stubbs’s submission to the People’s Forum in The Elkhart Truth last Tuesday thanked the school board, the Yes steering committee and the community in general. That’s all well and good.
But what his submission, and Haworth’s earlier statement to a reporter concerning the Elkhart schools’ victory, didn’t do is acknowledge the extra burden that is being placed on property owners, businesses and renters because of the tax increase the referendums caused.
If one questions why I include renters along with owners, it’s because when the cost of owning a rental property goes up, and increased taxes do that, the landlord most likely will compensate by raising the rent. It’s a simple case of Business 101.
My point is not that the referendums shouldn’t have passed or that the schools should not have proposed them. Nor is it that those who were thanked should not have been thanked. A huge effort went into the referendum processes. Many people worked their tails off.
My point is the superintendents apparently lack understanding and concern that everyone — those who voted against the referendums, those who voted for them, and those who didn’t vote at all — will be giving up some of their personal earnings for many years to come. This is not “found money.”
Counties don’t have the federal printing press to inflate the money supply. This school money will come from people’s savings plans, reduced contributions, decreased vacation budgets and diminished personal purchases. Many can easily afford it. But there are many who will be struggling.
I have talked to some of the folks who expressed worry and frustration about the added burden that is being placed upon them. They are looking at what they will cut to lift that burden.
The Yes4Elkhart campaign was wonderfully done and is an example of what can be accomplished when people are committed to a cause and have an outstanding combination of skilled planners, competent leaders and enthusiastic workers.
In the Elkhart district there was no opposing effort. If there had been, there may have been a larger voter turnout and a much closer contest. The lesson to be noted is that if one does not get involved, one gets what one gets. It’s a lesson that should be remembered when campaigns begin for the fall election.
Concord was different. There was opposition, and the votes result was very close. Fewer than 100 votes separated the winning side from the losing side. Every vote does count. And every effort has a dividend. Those are other things to be remembered.
And here’s a statement that will raise some eyebrows. I recognize that some will argue the semantics of this with me, but I hold to my statement. And it is this: “Tax caps don’t cause shortages.”
Indiana’s tax caps simply put a percentage limit on what can be taken from property owners. It is when one asks for more than one is allowed that causes a shortage.
Under current law, when more money is asked for than is allowed to be taken, the asker can make their case to the public from whom they are requesting contributions in the form of taxes.
Is that harder than lobbying county or state politicians to raise taxes in order to get more money? Probably it is. But it gets the public involved in the process, and that’s not all bad.
My message to the schools? I’m pleased you have the money. Just don’t forget where it’s coming from.
Former Elkhart furniture store owner Richard Leib has served on planning committees in several industries. An avid auto fan, he raced in the 1972 coast-to-coast Cannonball Run. He has written on a wide range of subjects.