FPC Meeting 7/1/08

Last night the Facilities Planning Committee were handed revised enrollment projections for the district. The growth outlook has changed so much since the referendum passed that it seemed logical to assume that they might consider shrinking the capacity of the high school a bit in order to ensure we don’t overbuild and to save a few bucks.

So much for logic.

The administrative faction along with at least one school board member seem unable to adapt to the changing circumstances. And if you don’t share their rosy picture of the future, you get called a “pessimist.”

One of the reasons I voted “yes” to the school building referendum last February was because they gave me a number. They said that the owner of a $200,000 home in the district could expect to add $272 onto his/her annual property tax bill. Using the handy calculator at the District 428 website, I plugged in the value of my own home. Eventually I made the decision to vote for the referendum, in part because I felt I could afford it.

Last night they made clear that the calculations were only good for one year, 2009, and a sudden realization hit me like a punch to the stomach: we’ll be picking up the slack.

Guess it was a case of my not adapting to the circumstances. Until now. We are used to property taxes rising as our home values rise. We are not used to paying more because of losses. But recently here we have:

  • Drops in home values
  • Job losses
  • What is probably a record number of foreclosures
  • What is undoubtedly a record price for gasoline, which if sustained has implications for migration that we can only guess at right now
  • Plant closings such as Spaulding Composites and Cavel International
  • Let’s pull out the plant closings for a sec. They tie into the recent city council approval of water rate hikes because they were both big users of water. Whether or not you agree that the city should have made up lost revenue this way, the bottom line is that we are now at least partly picking up the slack left by loss of industry. With property taxes we’re actually stuck doing so. We can’t walk away from the debt except by moving out of the district. So with every drop in EAV, every industrial and commercial closure, every homeowner who can no longer pay, the tab gets bigger for those remaining.

    This seems a good reason to downsize and economize the school building plans, just to make sure more homeowners aren’t chased out of town by tax increases we can’t afford. What’s scary is that a particular bloc on FPC appears to me to be in denial about the necessity.

    Well, how about this, then. As soon as my share of the dollar amount exceeds the promise made by the handy calculator, my vote for Phase II changes to “no.”