Thursday, March 05, 2015

Letter to the Editor on 3/4/15, My Response

A Letter to the Editor was published in the Maryland Independent on March 4, 2015 directly naming me.  My response to that letter has been submitted for publication, and can be found below.

I suspect I’m like most people. I don’t like paying taxes. I complain about them. I worry where I’m going to get the money to pay my taxes. And, in the end, I figure it out and pay. Then I enjoy the amenities my taxes provide – an excellent school system, roads, libraries, snow removal, water and sewer, police, fire, emergency medical services and more.

In a recent letter to the editor, a writer took me to task for making an offhanded remark on social media about my property tax increase and my lack of continued eligibility for a homeowner’s tax credit. He called me out as a member of the Board of Education who advocates for the needs of the school system, but used my personal situation along with assumption and misinformation to make his points. I would like to respond to that March 4 letter to the editor.

Shortly after becoming a divorced mother of four, I researched all programs that I might qualify for to help me maintain a stable home for my children. I qualified for the Homeowner’s Tax Credit, which I was able to take advantage of for two years. I would encourage anyone going through a time of financial hardship to do the same. It helped me keep my home.

The writer correctly points out that I volunteered as a member of the county’s School Adequate Public Facilities Program and Funding Review Committee. The committee worked to research possible revenue sources for the commissioners to consider for future school construction, renovations and school operating costs. At the end of a yearlong, laborious process, the committee provided the commissioners a recommendation listing feasible revenue streams to consider.  If by serving on this committee and completing the work required makes me in favor of increased taxes, I am guilty as charged.   

The writer also states that as a member of the elected school board in 2014, I demanded the commissioners use $6 million of Development Rights and Responsibilities Agreement (DRRA) funds to construct a pool at the new St. Charles High School. The video of the joint Board/Commissioners meeting does not support the writer’s claim. The video shows Board of Education member Donald Wade requesting, not demanding, the county commissioners to fund the pool. The county commissioners agreed and determined the funding source for the pool, which will be used by Charles County Public Schools students and the entire community.

The writer refers to a robo call to parents and staff about the lack of funding provided by the commissioners for this year’s school budget and possible cuts that might need to be made as a result. What we communicated was fact, not fiction.  As a result of the unfunded budget, the school system implemented cost saving measures that would not affect the classroom such as eliminating after-school activity buses. 

The writer goes on to imply that the school board is fighting to increase taxes, which is not true. The Board of Education is not a funding authority; our mission is to provide direction and educational policy for the school system.

Finally, the writer states the school system is sitting on $18 million dollars in unallocated fund balance, but he should have read the report rather than assuming what it said. The $18 million fund balance is a cumulative amount from the last five years and a direct result of management decisions to not fund OPEB and not proceed with maintenance projects and technology replacements. This was done at the direction of the county commissioners and the Board of Education. While seeking state approval for St. Charles High School, the county needed to provide assurances that operating costs for the new school would be funded.  The FY2014 fund balance contains designated funds and will be allocated as follows: health insurance reserve (selfinsurance 7.5 percent of claims) $2.9 million; contingency reserve (1 percent of annual operating budget) $3.6 million (approximately equal to the FY2015 fund balance requirement in the revenue portion of the budget); and a capital maintenance/technology reserve of 12.3 million.

In closing, everyone has an opinion and it’s great that we live in a country where we can voice these opinions.  However, we must be careful when voicing our opinions that we do not present them as facts.

No comments: