Mike the Mad Biologist

More MA Budget Cut Madness

More ridiculous budget cuts in Massachusetts at the local level. This time it’s schools, not libraries. According to the Boston Globe, Shoreham, MA has failed to approve a property tax override leading to the following educational budget cuts:

*shutting down the sixth-grade wing of the middle school and sending those students back to elementary school to save money.

*All athletic programs.

*Physical education classes.

*Elementary and middle school fine arts classes.

*Laying off an assistant high school principal.

And what’s behind this? Homeowners, particularly retirees:

Override opponents say high taxes are forcing many homeowners, especially seniors, out of this middle-class community of about 22,000. Some leading override opponents want to see the town manage its affairs more like a business, by consolidating some school and town administrative positions and outsourcing operations such as cafeteria service and custodial work.

It’s very odd: if a minority or immigrant family with a below-average income moves into a community, this is seen as a drain, but when someone retires, and voluntarily lowers his or her own income, this is not viewed as a drain. But from a budgetary perspective, it looks the same: land wealthy, income-poor property owners who can’t afford to support the well-paying jobs* and services that keep a community healthy.

There seems to have been a generational shift in attitudes. In my grandparents’ generation, it was assumed that once they retired, they would move into a smaller house or apartment because they weren’t working. For better or for worse (and this story highlights the worse), they thought that their standard of living shouldn’t be as high as when they were working (towards the end of their work careers anyway). Cutting education funding to subsidize their retirement would have been anathema to them.

Something has really gone wrong, and it’s not gay marriage….

*Outsourcing and job cuts will lower wages and increase unemployment. How does this help?

Comments

  1. #1 Joshua
    June 27, 2007

    Outsourcing and job cuts will lower wages and increase unemployment. How does this help?

    Because the invisible hand will… will… do something or other. And then you’ll be sorry! Why do you hate Capitalism?

  2. #2 bigTom
    June 27, 2007

    I remember this attitude (I don’t have kids so don’t spend money on schools) as being around for a very long time. I don’t think it is anything new.

    As part of their bargaining with the community, a school will often concentrate cuts on highly visible popular programs like sports and arts. This presumably increases the odds o getting some money restored.

    I’m not so sure retired people are a tax burden on their communities. I think most services go towards younger more active people, and local taxes are usually property and sales that retired folks pay.

  3. #3 lisa
    June 27, 2007

    The Baby Boomers have always had it easy.You don’t think it would occur to them to make sacrifices now do you? They are quick to criticize the next generation, not realizing the next generation’s short comings are a direct result of their avarice.

  4. #4 JuliaL
    June 27, 2007

    I’m glad your grandparents lived in a home large enough that a significantly smaller one would still be comfortable and dignified. I’m glad their standard of living was so high that they could live at a significantly lower standard of living with comfort and dignity. Not everyone is so fortunate.

    I found interesting this comment in the linked article:

    The Stoneham school sports cut is believed to be the second time a school board has scrapped its high school athletics program after an override failed, said Paul Wetzel, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. Winthrop made the same move in 2004, but boosters restored the program through donations, user fees, and gate receipts.

    It was also interesting that the parents of at least one of the athletes talked about sending him to private school.

    Also, the article made no mention of lower-taxed homes or apartments being available nearby. Instead, it explicitly said the seniors and others were being forced out of the community. Nor do we know how large the homes are that the seniors live in now. In my community, there are such people living in very simply built 1200-sq-ft homes with kitchens and bathrooms that they haven’t been able to afford to update for thirty or more years, and yes, I’m talking about 30-year-old refrigerators and stoves. I’m also talking about people whose health doesn’t permit them to drive, like a 89-year-old widow who lives in the very large (compared to that of many of her neighborhood friends, some of them considerably older than she is) home (1600 square feet) she and her husband built in 1957, and which has never been remodelled. Such people moved away from their familiar and supportive communities, with friends who visit and deliver grocieries, might as well be moved to the moon for all their ability to function in a new place.

    So putting all this together, we have in this article parents and teenagers arguing that old people should have to move out of a community they may have lived in and contributed to all their lives, to a smaller, cheaper home (in the case of those seniors in my neighborhood, that translates into little more than a one-room efficiency in the nearest drug-ridden apartment blocks) so that teenagers can use public money to provide them with equipment, training, uniforms, travel, etc. for what? For education in science so they can make a contribution to the health and safety of others? No, for a game they just really, really like to play, and which the fans and their parents could pay for on their own.

    Children need exercise and the experience of teamwork, both of which they can get by playing pick-up games in the park and by working after school to clean up yards and repair homes for needy people, including some of the seniors like those in my neighborhood.

    I think that property tax is immoral in its very structure, as it ignores the income and ability to pay of those being taxed, and instead functions to drive out the old, the sick, and the poor so that someone already financially superior can take over the land and homes they’ve worked and sacrificed a lifetime to pay for. In my area, for example, what we see almost every day are poor blacks living on land they’ve had since 1865, driven out by high property taxes, so that wealthy, mostly white, people from other states can have a vacation home under ancient great oaks or by the water.

    I do hope that you will reconsider your support for property taxes, at least for such things as high school fun and games, and take a closer look at what happens to at least some of those who can’t pay such ever-increasing taxes.

  5. #5 Kevin
    June 28, 2007

    Well I would have to agree with Gov. Richard Lamm

    “We’ve got a duty to die and get out of the way with all of our machines and artificial hearts and everything else like that and let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life.”

    and that includes old people in smelly houses.

  6. #6 şişme bebek
    June 11, 2009

    I think that property tax is immoral in its very structure, as it ignores the income and ability to pay of those being taxed, and instead functions to drive out the old, the sick, and the poor so that someone already financially superior can take over the land and homes they’ve worked and sacrificed a lifetime to pay for. In my area, for example, what we see almost every day are poor blacks living on land they’ve had since 1865, driven out by high property taxes, so that wealthy, mostly white, people from other states can have a vacation home under ancient great oaks or by the water.