Education & School Tax Articles
Letter to Summerville Journal Scene Re: Aquatic Center
August 25, 2012
Summerville Journal Scene
P.O. Box 715
Summerville, S,C 29484
The added Aquatic Center should not be a School budget item; yet, It adds $7 million dollars to the enormous school bonded debts, if the $180 million dollar bond referendum is approved. Why should just property owners be taxed for this nice-to-have delusional wish list of school District 2’s School Board and Mr. Pye? Why not spread the burden to all taxing venues? Realize that the key to the constitution is the right to property ownership and the opposite is to tax property and thereby abort that right.
Allow visitors to pay and developers to pay more than just tokenism, when they select where new schools are to be located near their residential developments, and see how far that suggestion goes.
It's too easy to create more debt by laying it on property owners and small businesses who will eventually throw in the towel and move to another state that isn't incrementally bleeding the right to property ownership to satisfy developers pocket books and those who profit from increasing the un-affordable creep of the monolithic public school octopus.
Over 70% of all sources of tax collection go to the public school system. The cost of libraries should not be part of the school budget. The general population has access to the libraries why should that be exclusively part of the school budget? The school paid for a special road to facilitate the Ashley Ridge Taj Mahal. Why? The Aquatic Center is just one more un-affordable "improvement" that results in more residential development in an overly populated area of the state. Residential property never pays for itself because of the infrastructure costs, i.e., roads, water and sewer, electricity, etc. Individual contributions for such projects is the answer - not laying it on property owners.
I’m sick and tired of having my home property tax as the main source for political solutions because of dreamed-up, bloated public schools without going to the bother to investigate school budgets and dreamed up referendums that impede alternate school choice. The public school system is not a sacred cow - the most powerful lobby in the county, with power to elect its own politician yes men. What this system needs is competition that allows the tax money to follow the child to alternative schools or tax credits to families who wish for a better solution for their wards.
Joe Kress/108 Lakeview Drive, Summerville 29485
$179 Million Added to Public-School Debt
By The Curmudgeon
Swimming pools, recreational parks, more mega schools, more congestion, more undisciplined politicians and school boards … and more, much more debt and taxation … not a formula for making this area livable, but a sure fire road to insolvency.
Here is the predicament inflation is inevitable because of the sinking dollar. President Carter’s stagflation is already happening again.
The new District 2’s 2012/2013 budget includes increases in wages that include retirement costs and medical costs, while the regular citizen is scraping pennies and looking for employment.
The new budget referendum includes maintenance expense to replace roofs on schools that are not yet 10 years old and bathrooms that even the children complain. These items evidently were not part of previous budgets. What happened? Why not?
It’s a mad, mad world in District 2, almost as mad as Obamaism.
One of the most egregious items of the past is using school budget funds to build a road to the new Ashley Ridge High School. Why is it not the county’s responsibility? We already approved a 1% increase tax to cover new roads; that should pay for that expense.
Another was passage of the referendum for alternative funding, later determined to be illegal, yet Greenville and District 2 must pay interest and principal on the bonded debt in the form of renting our own schools.
Much of the following recommendations require the Department of Education’s co-operation and by the governor to change certain state laws.
In order to solve the problem locally, which is only a partial solution to one that will plague us for years, recommend the following to offer students the right to have the funding to provide tax credits for students to whatever school meets the students’ needs – including technical, charter, private, church and home schools.
Decrease emphasis on athletics and reduce funding for elaborate equipment, buildings and all unnecessary accommodations.
Monster schools added “nice to have curricula,” not needed to graduate and no longer affordable. This includes providing students to do community projects for school credit that will not benefit students to obtain employment. Students can do that in their Church functions or on their own time. The school time is more important. SC Department of Education needs to reevaluate education verses social experiments. 45 minute teaching periods are too short and need to be returned to one hour periods that are presently devoted to less important curriculum.
Community schools with appropriate classroom space to accommodate 30 students instead of the mandatory 15 student per class located in neighborhoods where the parents, students and teacher can interact instead of in those palaces that house thousands of students with gymnasiums and enormous parking lots dedicated for the students’ automobiles instead of smaller areas for bicycles. The schools could be made of steel construction with attractive facades and relocated if necessary. There are expandable for larger rooms and additions to the buildings could be easily accomplished.
Eliminate the burden of paperwork that overwhelms teachers. Hire only academic grade and high school multi disciplined teachers who have at least knowledge of college math, English grammar and composition; also add at least a rudimentary education in science. Beware of teacher colleges that don’t offer the aforementioned disciplines. Make efforts to hire male teachers. Reduce the number of security monitors. Reduce the number of alternative principals in mega schools and employ them in neighborhood schools having fewer offices, make work reporting requirements, and allows much smaller number of staff assistants. Most Catholic school principals have but one staff assistant.
Hire local mechanics, carpenters, welders, plumbers, and bricklayers, computer experts, to teach in high school technical schools or within their local business accommodations.
Request industry to lend experts to teach short courses and to provide real world experiences. Trust experienced teachers to have total control of discipline and back them up. Eliminate computers for students below the seventh grade level. Students need to know the multiplication tables, to add and subtract without a handheld device. Teach Palmer method. Teach history and civics other than what is in the controlled text books by asking students to do research and use the internet and Google. Use iPod phones for principal to communicate directly as necessary with the District’s Superintendent of schools.
Parents who have no interest in schooling their children can be considered being child abusive.
Local, small schools in neighborhoods offer an opportunity for closer contact with these parents.
Remember that to make changes it takes fortitude and desire to limit financing public schools by making major changes to benefit the student, and not overstaffing, Taj Mahals that benefit developer’s pocket books, realtors, building suppliers, the Chamber of Commerce who care nothing for the livability of a once bucolic Summerville burdened with more jammed traffic, more congestion, more pollution.
We can’t spend our way out of debt.
We can’t depend on the Governor, the SC State House and Senate to bail us out of debt and the federal government can’t help to any extent, expect to put us in more debt.
The cost of schools is out of control.
We are on the verge of going over the cliff and financial catastrophe.
Summerville School District #2 - A Simmering Time Bomb
By Joseph H. Kress
The residents within Dorchester County's School District 2 will be charged another increase in taxes amounting to $82.20 on a house valued at $150,000. Dorchester School District 2's budget causes the millage to increase by 13.7 mills. These increases are the result of a runaway residential building program devoid of any controls and an alternate school funding plan for new schools where the public has been denied a vote on how much and how many schools are to be built through the referendum process. Nearly the entire 8% tax collected on properties located within District 2 for school operations has been diverted to pay the principle, interest, and administration and commission costs for the lease to purchase alternate funding plan leaving nothing for maintenance, books, equipment and other needs. Hence the increase in property taxes to cover operation costs.
Every request for a zoning change by the developers was approved with total disregard as to the impact this would have on established taxpayers. Only token Impact fees were charged to developers; nothing remotely needed to meet the $15,000 to $20,000 per residential unit to pay for roads, sewer and water lines leading to the location of the developments or the fire, EMS and police protection, the facilities to house them, the school operation costs, and the cost to build new schools. The result of unrestricted growth has been a huge 35% population growth in 4 years promoted by advertising.
The blame falls directly on certain members of the Dorchester County Council who deliberately ignored the impact that they caused during the last four years. Developers received cart blanch permission to build thousand of houses, as many as 4 or more house on a single acre of land. They were joined by the Chamber of Commerce and all those on the feed line for more unrestricted development in promoting the Berlin Myers Parkway extension (BME) that will cost taxpayers at least $120 million of the $127 million of the 1 cent road tax which was at the time $40 million dollars short of what was to pay for 200 miles of roads within the county. The DOT and CHATS were supposed to have promised to pay for the $40 million shortfall, but failed so far. Now, the costs have increased to nearly $60 million.
After a thorough study of the BME by a commission appointed by the Council, it determined that the extension would not alleviate road congestion within Summerville. This was ignored and the project is still scheduled to proceed as planned and promoted by those who will benefit the most. Time after time, numbers of people gathered to voice objections before the members of the Council regarding these new developments only to be ignored or worse yet, when the project drew large numbers of people, the subject was apparently postponed or rescheduled to be discussed not in Summerville, but in council Chambers at St. George.
Obviously, it's time to make a clean sweep of those in the Council who ignore the voters. It is also obvious that the School District 2 school board approved new schools wherever the developers want them as a marketing tool to sell their houses. We need new faces on that board as well. Although District 2 has a lauded reputation, only 56% of high school students graduate vs. 52% state wide.
South Carolina Waste Money on Education
Reprinted from the Greenville News’s article
Professor Harry Stille, member of the S.C. House of Representatives
For the fourth year our budget has been hit with shortfall. South Carolina has had drastic cuts in many state agencies during this time. Most state employees in these agencies have had salaries frozen and their health care premiums increased drastically.
Many state employees have suffered with job loss, restricted incomes and a hiring freeze.
At the state four-year public universities things are very different. Life goes on like very little happened to the state’s economy.
University administrators tell the public how bad things are because of reductions in their share of state budget with cutbacks they have to make. However, in reality, most South Carolina universities have more total funding then they had years ago.
According to figures in Gov. Mark Sanford’s Executive Budget, the twelve universities, MUSC and technical colleges have increased their total funds by $227.6 million over the past four years. The majority of this comes from tuition, books, student fees and dorm increases and is related to the increase in lottery funding for the Life Scholarships.
From last year (2002-2003) to this year (2003-04), the increase was over $120 million. Yet, the institutions continue to want more funds from the students by increasing tuition again for next year, They want a 6 to 7 percent increase for 2004-05. .These same institutions award 5,800 employees pay increases this year as well.
All institutions’ tuition will exceed the Life Scholarship awards of $5,000. Students and parents must pay out-of-pocket costs of tuition in excess of the Life awards or those without Life.
The major problem with the senior four-year public university systems in South Carolina is the legislature condones mediocrity. To increase student enrollment, institutions accept weaker academically prepared students for the money. The well academically prepared student is already in college.
Our senior-four year universities are the most wasteful agencies in our state’s government. They talk the good game of efficiency with no regard to the taxpayer or student.
Fifteen percent of all freshmen that enter most of our institutions should not be in a public four-year system to begin their college careers. Of these freshmen students, 2,200 in fall 2003 scored below 899/19 on SAT/ACT tests when the state cohort freshman is 1082/24.5 for SAT/ACT. This group of under-qualified students cost in facilities, faculty, staff and administration and can be educated at about 60 percent of the cost in the technical education system.
Many poorly prepared students can also remain in college because grades are much inflated for many reasons. Clemson University and the College of Charleston have been reducing the number of freshmen to increase the academic quality of the freshman class. This concept works as test scores and GPA class rank reflect the data.
The Citadel’s freshman academic quality is not as good as the above two institutions, but because of the mission of the institution, they have very positive results to show for these students.
The University of South Carolina needs a serious overhaul of its academic performance. USC-Columbia should follow the Clemson admissions model, but the administration is more concerned with numbers than quality of student.
Our research institutions tend to neglect the undergraduate student for focus on research. However the research to be in the forefront, a higher quality undergraduate needs to be the future graduate student doing the research.
The other institutions must restrict the freshman class to improve the academic quality of these freshman students. This saves the state money. The students at these institutions fail to retain or graduate anywhere from 40-61 percent of their freshman students. This is an enormous cost to our state’s taxpayers to fund these students.
Our state spends too much money on weak academically prepared students who take away from the good students and their programs within the four-year system.
What’s wrong with weaker academically prepared students beginning their college in the two-year system, then transferring to a four year institution to complete their baccalaureate degree?
For a small state, we need to be more efficient with our higher education dollars.
USC-Beaufort and USC Sumter should be forced to remain two-year status institutions. The academic quality of their student is not present to merit four-year status. As a two-year college, only 24-30 percent of these institutions’ entering freshman graduate with a baccalaureate degree. Thirty-four percent of freshman at Beaufort and Sumter score below 899 on the combined SAT test.
Some of our four-year institutions may need to become two-year institutions because of their large number of weak academically prepared students.
Our state clearly needs a governing board over the post-secondary system to better manage the higher education system.
Did the Dorchester 2 School Board Members Violate Their Oath of Office
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of the State, to exercise the duties of the office to which I have been elected (or appointed) and that I will, to the best of my ability, discharge the duties thereof and preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the State and the United States, so help me God.”
CODE OF ETHICS
As a school board member in South Carolina, I pledge my efforts to improve education in my community and will solemnly try to abide by the code of ethics below:
To understand the proper role of the board to set policies governing the district and to hire the chief administrative officer.
The role of the board has been violated because of a contract and appointment of a corporation to handle the duties of financing and managing the maintenance and upkeep for a fee that was not revealed to the general public. In fact, the board authorized the corporation to conduct a study to determine the number of schools to be built in exchange for a fee of $45,000. This study will embrace potential developments now and to anticipate those to be built in the future.
The board failed to take into consideration that by hiring this corporation they may have abrogated their right to make key decisions as to subcontracts regarding the type schools to be built. It is entirely possible that schools could be replicas of the Taj Mahal. The corporation will select the bond agency and may not be obligated to conduct competitive bidding. In fact, contracts will no longer be under the watchful eyes of the board.
There may be no limit to the cost or the number of schools, despite the result of the study. This arrangement between the board and the corporation could be maintained in perpetuity to be implemented every time a developer decides where he wants to locate a new subdivision. School buildings sell houses. One would suspect a connection between the board and the developers.
The financing for hiring school teachers, administrators and other personnel to man these new schools and purchase all the books, computers and a thousand other items are categorized as operation costs to be covered by the federal government, the state and not the taxpayers, if the 40% increase in sales tax is to become law. All operations costs, according to the plan, that is most likely to be approved will be paid by the state from the proceeds of the tax. There is one debilitating caveat whereby, if the state’s distributions are insufficient to cover the operational costs, the school boards may importune the county councils for approval of additional funds. On the other hand, if the sales tax increase is denied, all operation costs not provided by state or federal government will be laid on taxpayers and county councils to fulfill the “requirements”. Without considering fully the outcome of this legislation or the fact that there is legislation now pending within the SC House Ways and Means Committee to implement impact fees to cover part of the costs for new school construction, the board charged ahead with their infamous plan, based on the board’s legal council that if the action is challenged by the courts, once implemented, the plan will be grandfathered and immune to reversal.
To carry out these policies to encourage an open exchange of ideas by all board members during the decision making process.
The board conducted what might be considered a charade when it asked several groups to meet with them for ideas.
The board met with two members of the Legislative Delegation and were told because the board failed to make a presentation to enlighten them on measures taken previously to help eliminate the problem of overcrowding, due to anticipated population growth, no recommendation could be made to other members of the delegation in order to reach a finding.
The board scheduled a meeting with contractors and only one person showed up. The rest may have felt secure that the decision would favor them anyway. Mr. Pye, the Superintendent of District 2 Schools said he was very disappointed.
The Dorchester County Taxpayer Association was invited to make recommendations and several were offered such as year round scheduling, modular constructed classrooms with move-able walls to accommodate large and small classes; adoption of a proposal by one of the school board members to move the ninth grade from high schools to middle schools where there are available classroom spaces; promotion of more Charter Schools and full utilization of the technical schools where many classrooms are minimally utilized. When the topic of alternate financing came up (The Greenville Plan), Mr. Pye stated flatly that the plan was considered but decided against it because of the legal complications and other troubling aspects.
Other meetings were held by the Chamber of Commerce, the Parent Teachers Association, and realtors all of which advocated more schools, but it was never revealed what alternatives were discussed. There is possible evidence that these organizations have their special interests and would approve any alternates source of funding even if it meant that the general public would be left out of the decision. There appears to be no evidence that the school board asked or received approval for such a plan.
To communicate concerns and public reaction to board policies and school programs to the superintendent and board members in a professional manner.
The board and the superintendent were fully aware that the general public voted not to approve a bond referendum (March 25, 2003) which asked for $98.3 million dollars to build new schools. The referendum failed and although the margin was small, a local builder headed the campaign “Yes to Schools” which allegedly was financed by those who would benefit from passage of this mammoth request. A special, single issue election was held at taxpayer expense, perhaps with anticipation that most voters who may oppose the referendum would not show up since no other matter was on the ballot. With a concerted effort by the Dorchester County Taxpayers Association, enough voters became aware that their property taxes would be raised significantly and as a result instead of the anticipated 10% showing up at the polls, 20% cast their ballots. The Board and the Administration were perplexed until Berkeley County Administrators adopted what was known as the Greenville Plan. Without any prior announcement, the school board held closed negotiations with the company who would manage the plan and in an open meeting just after the signing, the lawyer for the corporation announced that he was the school board’s representative in any legal matter relative to the arrangement. The Dorchester County Taxpayers Association (DCTA) members were the only body other than school affiliate employees, reporters from the Post and Courier, the Summerville Journal Scene and administration members present meant to be aware of this declaration.
Based on the above surreptitious and misleading endeavor to hide from the general public what was transpiring behind closed doors, DCTA feels that the board most egregiously violated the spirit and intent of ethical conduct.
To take no individual action which would compromise the integrity of the board or administration and to respect the confidentially of information that is privileged under the Freedom of Information Act.
The school board did compromise its integrity when one of its members stated at the signing of the alternative funding agreement that with this agreement it will facilitate as many new schools as required by the board and that the freed up 8% money will provide niceties heretofore denied children which she mentioned included her own. The implication appeared to be that District 2 children were subject to impoverished funding where $6,200 per child for operations and an additional amount for bond indebtedness wasn’t sufficient and where 73% of the total taxes collected by the country wasn’t enough to meet an obvious bottomless maw of a layered bureaucracy and mammoth inefficacy
to support legislation that will improve the educational opportunities and environment for students and staff.
DCTA feels that by promoting unabated school construction also creates massive promotion for new development, increased congestion and unsustainable increases in taxes to support needed infrastructure requirements, but actually it detracts from improved education. It does, however, create an ever-burgeoning school bureaucracy, more powerful and less considerate than what the public needs and can afford.
It appears that school boards have become autonomous and rarely do county councils or county managers, such as the one Berkeley County endures, turn down significant funding requests and when they do, it is barely enough to be considered mentionable. Rather, subterfuge may be employed to tell the public, for instance, that the alternate funding plan will not result in a tax increase. Or in other past instances where proposed bond referendums were to be on the ballot, there was a propensity to sell the idea of tax increases to the public by underestimating the true tax for fear of voter rejection. Isn’t it obvious that if the integrity of school boards is predicated on lies and questionable propaganda or outright subterfuge, it detracts from the real purpose…educating children? That responsibility hardly has been stellar in most South Carolina districts compared to 41 other states that ranked higher in comparative educational statistical evaluations. The school boards’ purpose is to ensure education of children as well as maintain prudent, responsibility for what voters can afford.
Better Change Now Before It's Too Late
April 28, 2004
New Zealand had an education system that was failing as it is in many states in the U.S. It was failing about 30 percent of its children - especially those in lower socio-economic areas. They had put more and more money into education for 20 years, and achieved worse and worse results.
It cost twice as much to get a poorer result than it did 20 years previously with much less money. So they decided to rethink what we were doing here as well. The first thing they did was to identify where the dollars were going that were pouring into education. They hired international consultants (because they didn't trust their own departments to do it), and they reported that for every dollar that was spent on education, 70 cents was being swallowed up by administration. Once they heard this, they immediately eliminated all of the Boards of Education in the country. Every single school came under the control of a board of trustees elected by the parents of the children at that school, and by nobody else. The government gave the schools a block of money based on the number of students that went to them, with no strings attached. At the same time, the government told the parents that they had an absolute right to choose where their children would go to school.
New Zealand converted 4,500 schools to this new system all on the same day. But it went even further: It made it possible for privately owned schools to be funded in exactly the same way as publicly owned schools, giving parents the ability to spend their education dollars wherever they chose. Again, everybody predicted that there would be a major exodus of students from the public to the private schools, because the private schools showed an academic advantage of 14 to 15 percent.
It didn't happen, however, because the differential between schools disappeared in about 18-24 months. Why? Because all of a sudden teachers realized that if they lost their students, they would lose their funding; and if they lost their funding, they would lose their jobs. Eighty-five percent of the students went to public schools at the beginning of this process. That fell to only about 84 percent over the first year or so due to the reforms. But three years later, 87 percent of the students were going to public schools. More importantly, the public schools moved from being about 14 or 15 percent below New Zealand’s international peers to being about 14 or 15 percent above international peers in terms of educational attainment.
That's just one of the many free-market reforms New Zealand adopted to rescue itself from suffocation by a government that was too large and expensive.
After reforms started in 1984, New Zealand reduced the size of government by 66 percent, measured by the number of employees. The government's share of GDP dropped from 44 to 27 percent. They reduced income tax rates besides.
Why can’t South Carolina with near 50% failing rate and the bloated U.S. Government do that? Answer: No guts…too many on the feeding line.
The Case For Not Building More Schools
The Dorchester County Taxpayer association was able to help defeat the $98.3 million dollar bond referendum last March mainly because taxpayers were made aware that such an amount would seriously affect their tax bills and raised the question whether the new construction is really necessary.
But that win was not the end of the power struggle between the special interests and the taxpaying public.
The School Board’s Growth Facilities Committee’s new initiative is to present to the public a choice between five plans of which the headings for each plan are as follows:
Plan I: $21,000,000 to build only 2 elementary schools and move the 9th grade students into the middle schools thus reducing the number of students in the high schools.
Plan II: $35,500,000 to build only 1 new high school, Grade Level Structure 9-12.
Plan III: $73,500,000 to build 2 elementary, 1 middle, and 1 high school
Plan IV: $5,000,000 for trailer/mobile units 90 @ approx. $55,000 ea. Cost includes canopies, sidewalks; furniture, technology, wiring, fire alarms, etc. for these units.
Plan V: No building plan
The flyer the committee distributes lists numerous advantages for Plan III and only two innocuous disadvantages, whereas the reverse is true for the other so-called plans. Note Plan VI’ heading stipulates sidewalks, furniture, wiring, fire alarms, technology and canopies as if the other plans would not require these items except for the canopies.
The whole purpose of the flyer is not to be balanced, but to sell the public on Plan III. It is supposedly a reduced or scaled down version of the $98.3 million dollar referendum. The property adjacent to the DuBose Middle School was sold and part of the proceeds will be applied to purchase the land for the preferred Plan III schools. The proceeds from the sale may be one of the reasons why the $73,500,000 price tag is lower than the original $98.3 million as needed in the referendum that was turned down by the taxpayers.
Taxpayers are aware that new schools built in locations that are planned by developers are a sales tool for the developers. The more grandiose the school the better the advertisement to sell lots and build homes for the new residents arriving from not only out of state but from the surrounding counties. Better facilities and scholastic achievements of the school district are attracting pupils whose residences are located outside of Dorchester County.
Each year, the student population is much higher than at the end of the year. There are two ways to determine the requirement for more schools. One is the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) or the daily average of enrolled pupils and the other is those enrolled in the system at the beginning of the year. School boards traditionally base their projections and budgets as well as the need for new schools on initial enrollments, but by the end of the school year, the ADA results show a large disparity between the beginning of the enrollment year and the end. The reason for the reduced number of student population is the screening out of students living outside of the county; transfers out of the county and dropouts. The rate of student growth since 1998 thru 2002 was 5.8% according the U.S. Department of Education, but the cost of operation increase was 27% The rate of increase in student population doesn’t reflect the need for Plan III.
The Summerville Journal Scene, August 27, 2003, reported a 6,000 acre planned development in Ravenel, 4,500 acres are in Dorchester County, the rest in Charleston County. The developers will expect taxpayers to pay for the schools and other infrastructure costs. This development is located near Savannah Highway.
This is the major reason why no new schools should be built in Dorchester County. For every new house built within the county the immediate infrastructure cost is around $14,000 to support additional roads, sewer and water systems, schools, police and fire protection, emergency medical response support, welfare and the list goes on to include training the children of illegal immigrants. Thus far, neither the legislature nor the governor has made an effort to rescind Governor Hodges executive order not to allow impact fees for new school construction. With over 73% of county taxes going to support schools, tax payers are funding those who benefit the most from new school construction - the lawyers, the lending institutions, the contractors, the builders and the developers. All of these interests want to increase the sprawl, the over population, the congestion. If no new schools were to be built, developers would concentrate in other areas of the state and the civic leaders could then plan for orderly growth rather than what is going on at the present time. Impact fees would pay for orderly development and unless legislation is passed to permit the counties to take back their authority, DCTA says NO to new schools.
 The S.C. Policy Council made a study that was published this year. It states that in Dorchester County 56% of those students entering high school actually receive a diploma. In other words, 44% never graduate for a number of reasons including transfers, dropouts and academic failure. The average graduation rate in all S.C. counties is slightly less than 50%. Are we building high schools to accommodate half the students?