Community School District 7 board member Mike Firsching is leading a drive to put a proposed $10 million tax increase to a vote.
Last week, Firsching and others delivered petitions to the district containing more than 3,500 signatures of citizens who want a chance to decide the question.
“I think that it is important that people get to vote on whether more expenditures are something that they want to do or not,” said Firsching.
Firsching said it is becoming increasingly more common that such increases are being approved without consent of taxpayers.
“It sure seems like it is becoming more popular recently because of tough economic times," he said. "It is the natural tendency of the board to say, ‘oh gosh, we are short of money, maybe we should get more money by raising taxes.
“It would be better stewardship of public funds for the board to say, ‘hey, the economy is tough, we have to pull back what we are spending in response.’ But this hasn’t seemed to be the tendency of various boards, which I find disappointing."
When Firsching was obtaining signatures, he said that he encountered three different groups of people.
The first group, he said, thinks that spending money on education is a good thing, and are willing to pay more in taxes. The next feels financially strapped and cannot handle any type of tax increase. The third is in the middle – they can be persuaded to increase their taxes if the board can demonstrate a logical presentation of the facts.
The school board meets Monday and will decide whether or not to put a referendum question on the March ballot.
“Or, they can say, ‘we are not going to do that, we are going to do something different,” said Firsching. “But I’m not sure what that something different would be.”
Firsching called for state law makers to make it mandatory for school boards to put all tax increases up to a vote.
“I think that it is important that people know when their taxes are going up, a lot of people were unaware of it all,” said Firsching. “I think that taking a vote is good for the process. I think it’s the way it should be done.”