This group in Ohio is hopping mad at bad school district management (is there any other kind?). They placed a referendum on the ballot that would cut $16 million from their district’s budget.
Here in Illinois, we need this type of citizen empowerment. We can vote down a levy, but we can’t put a levy cut on the ballot. This is why your property taxes are a one-way ratchet of upward growth – even as your values decline.
Their plan is to take away approximately $16 million from the district’s budget by repealing a portion of their school millage through a public referendum on the November ballot.
The goal is to force school officials to address a history of questionable spending practices that have resulted in annual tax increases.
The group leading the charge — Taxpayers for Westerville Schools — also wants the district to consider logical cost-saving measures that have been repeatedly suggested by local residents, but largely ignored by the school board.
“Folks from our group have actually been to meetings to provide great ideas for fiscal responsibility since 2009,” Jim Burgess, spokesperson for Taxpayers for Westerville Schools, told EAGnews.org. “This wasn’t a reactionary effort. It’s been ongoing for three years now trying to get things under control.”
Last November, a group of taxpayers and district parents worked to defeat a proposed school levy increase and were overwhelmingly successful. Citizens rejected the measure 61-39 percent with a very high voter turnout, Burgess said.
Within two weeks (of the November 2011 defeat) the board of education had decided to put another levy on the ballot for March,” he said. That five-year “emergency levy” passed, Burgess said, and “a month later we decided to… work for the petition effort to put the issue on the ballot to remove that tax increase.”
State law doesn’t allow residents to erase an “emergency” levy, so the group is actually working to remove an earlier tax increase. But the effect is the same.
The intent is to neutralize what happened in March,” Burgess said. “We actually kicked off… (the petition effort) the last Wednesday in April.”
By August 7, when Taxpayers for Westerville Schools turned in their petition, the group had collected 5,136 signatures in support of removing 6.71 mills of the district’s continuing school tax levy, which equates to roughly $16 million in district revenue.
They only needed 3,585 signatures to put the question on the ballot.
It is time to equalize the power structure of property taxation. All local property taxing entities should be subject to citizen vetoes of their profligate practices (bond deals, contract giveaways, etc.) Voter approval of spending reductions should be considered valid renegotiation of contracts as well. Our elected officials – who are theoretically acting as OUR AGENTS in these contracts – are actually bought and paid for by greedy and corrupt spending interests.
OUR votes in a referendum should be the final say on the contracts, not our feckless legislators and bought-off board members.