Here's why I'm voting no on June 7:
1. As School Board member Sue Dickinson said, "We are not using taxpayers' dollars appropriately when we are operating two school buildings half-empty." Save $3.19 million if you close those schools; no teacher positions cut, just administrators.
Question: Why has it taken this scramble to justify tax increases to get to the possibility of saving $3.19 million for the district? Why are we spending this money now? Why isn't our School Board watching the purse? Why is every shortfall met with a call for tax increase? In my budget, $3.19 million would be hard to miss. Enrollment is down, and the trend likely to continue. Whether tax increases are approved by the voters or not, we should close half-empty schools. There is room in other Flagler schools.
2. We need to cut overwhelmingly high salaries at the top of the budget. How many administrators are there in each school, and what is each paid? Why do we need an assistant superintendent at a six-figure salary?
Why are we not looking at salaries at the top? If the reason is "contracts," then we need to look at the contracts and who negotiated them and again decide if the School Board is looking out for the students and the taxpayer.
3. I will not give the School Board more money if they keep cutting the things that add to our children's education (such as the 45 minutes of the school day). To even consider cutting art, music (wheel classes) while wasting $3.19 million makes me think that giving them any more money to waste is a bad idea. The board needs to make decisions with the children's needs first and the taxpayers. I don't see that now.
In the state where I was born and where I raised my children, salaries for the current year were published in the local newspaper. Teachers could not cry poverty and lobby the populace with signs and letters to the editor and articles on newsblogs pulling on the heartstrings of parents because their salaries are in black and white for everyone to see. That district was top-heavy in salaries, too.
I attended School Board meetings there as much as I could. At one of these meetings, I was seated behind a group of teachers and could hear their conversations. A taxpayer got up in public comment and pleaded for consideration of the fact that he just could not pay any more taxes. The teachers in front of me said, "If you don't like it, move to Florida."
We're here. Where do we move to now? Income has gone down 10% in Flagler this past year, yet we are being asked for more taxes again.
4. A letter by a teacher, Mr. Nemec, just shows how out of touch with the real world our education professionals are. He's "offended" and expresses views of the previous letter writer this way: "Let me guess, you are retired and your kids are grown." As if being retired deprives you of the right to express an opinion. I voted against tax increases when my children were young, too, when the school district was wasting our money.
People over 65 make up only 25.3% of the population here, and to dump on the elderly again if there is anything but a rubber-stamp agreement with educators and School Board demands — that needs to stop.
Funny the way this teacher plays with words, saying no raises were given for five years, when indeed step increases were given. A raise is a raise is a raise. He says he got a 3% pay cut. Is he referring to the 3% that teachers are required to pay into their own pension funds (97% of which is paid by the taxpayer)? Many would be happy to have any employer-paid retirement fund, any raises, any paid medical coverage and any job at all.
And no, I'm not satisfied with Flagler's scores and graduation rate. We can do better. We should stop patting ourselves on the back and look at what we can do to improve the education of Flagler's children. We should be looking at the successful programs around the country and try to emulate them, not be satisfied with the status quo. More money in taxes does not equal better education.