You have the power to set your own tax rate

To the editor:

One month ago, Aaron Hilmer wrote a letter to the Call reminding the voters of south county that they had the power to set their own tax rates.

For the last two weeks, elected officials and employees of the Lindbergh and Mehlville school districts have railed on Mr. Hilmer’s comments as “a disappointing blend of generalized discontent, mischaracterization and misdirection,” and “Mr. Hilmer appears to be more concerned about cutting costs than student safety.”

It is clear that those who benefit the most from the taxpayers’ generosity squeal the loudest when challenged.

The reaction to Mr. Hilmer’s short eight-paragraph letter unleashed a torrent of thousands of words from those involved in the public education industry. Of course the education bureaucrats support unending tax increases on homeowners for their respective political subdivisions.

How else can local superintendents continue to receive their $200,000-plus yearly salaries and recommend generous annual pay increases for the teachers, administrators and support staff?

The Census Bureau reports that public-sector employees earn $1.22 for every $1 earned by private-sector employees. School district executives’ compensation packages are in the top 5 percent of all wage earners.

According to the Department of Labor, teachers’ salaries — based on hours worked — average $30.11 an hour, which is comparable to the hourly compensation of engineers, architects and software designers. But our schools never seem to get enough money.

After all, “it’s for the kids.” Sure it is.

Soon your mailbox will be jammed with “informational” campaign materials that will “inform” you about the pressing needs of your local school district for more money. Just remember, you are paying for these mailings. Since school districts have an unlimited amount of your money to spend, it is almost impossible to run a well-funded campaign to oppose a tax increase.

But it can be done.

For example, last February the Mehlville School District sought approval for a 97-cent tax increase. In addition to the tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent by the district on “informational” mailings, a pro-tax increase campaign committee was formed and obtained contributions for over $50,000. Contributors included the Mehlville School District’s bankers, lawyers, computer consultants, school bus pro-viders, board members, bus drivers, teachers and area construction unions. All of these groups would directly benefit from a huge hike in taxes.

The committee that opposed this measure — led by Mr. Hilmer and I — raised $4,000, but only spent $1,500. We spent our funds educating the public. The grasp residents had of the issues amazed us. The voters rejected this huge and unnecessary tax increase by an overwhelming landslide.

An informed electorate can stem the tide of endless demands for a greater share of our hard-earned money. You have the power to set your own tax rate on Nov. 7.

The decision is in your hands.

Jim Stonebraker