I am unable to attend the Dec. 3 District 96 school board meeting. I am writing to support the tax levy increase the maximum amount. This is counterintuitive for many people, especially those of us taxpayers that have seen our property tax increase significantly over the past several years.

I am one of those people who will complain that my taxes are going up too much each year while at the same time voting for a tax referendum. I am very concerned about the education my children get, and that is why we moved to Riverside when we did.

It is incumbent upon the school board to be the fiduciary of the district. This means several things. First off, it means ensuring the long-term financial health of the district. Without an increase in the tax levy at this time, the district will be spending at a deficit level much sooner than not.

School board members, being representatives of the taxpayers, this does not automatically mean not increasing taxes. It does mean keeping the district healthy both financially and educationally.

When the district starts to run a deficit, then the hard choices will be forced — what do you cut, when do you ask for a referendum? Not increasing the levy now is a short-term gain for a long-term loss. In the past, it has been a goal of the district to avoid going to a referendum as long as possible. The district is financially healthy now. It should be kept that way.

In the past, the taxpayers, parents and other constituents of this district have asked that the district provide an excellent educational experience through small classes and a variety of educational experiences including arts education and music.

I am already concerned about cuts the district is considering, and has made more recently. In the discussion the board is having now, they are considering forcing tax cuts on the revenue side rather than working through the spending cuts first.

This will impact the long-term health of the school district and force decisions that counter the educational excellence that the district has provided. The time to be debating the tax levy is when the budgeting process happens, not right up against a deadline.

Since 80 percent of the district’s cost is due to salary and benefits, unless the board plans to cut teachers, there isn’t much else to cut. Cutting teachers will significantly increase class size. Cutting arts and music will reduce the educational experience of our students.

This is the wrong way to deal with the budget. I know many people in this town think teachers are overpaid. I do not. In fact, teachers need to be highly educated and equitably compensated. Compared to corporate jobs of similar education and experience, teachers are poorly paid. Yes, there are tradeoffs including longer vacations, but that is because of the way the school year is organized.

Again, I support a maximum increase to the tax levy. It is the fiduciary responsibility of the board to the district, the students and the taxpayers to do so, and any less without identifying the budget cuts first, is backwards.

Jim Raffensperger


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