American trust of all levels of government has declined over the last decade. And while local governments haven’t fared quite as bad as Washington DC, there’s no question that trust is down from where it was according to the Pew Foundation.
If you need a case-in-point for why that trust is down, look no further than the Fargo School Board.
This last week the citizens of the Fargo Public School District voted down a measure which would have allowed the district to continue exceeding the state’s 70 mill property tax cap. Since 2009 the state has bought down 125 mills worth of local school taxes. Last year the legislature made the buy-downs a permanent policy, but also put in place a cap on mills school districts could levy. Districts wanting to exceed the cap had to ask voters.
Fargo’s voters said no.
Now, in a fit of petulance that would be hard to believe if it wasn’t unfolding before our eyes, school board members have taken to social media to essentially threaten voters with reduced quality of education if a higher property tax levy isn’t met.
“The voters have told us right now that, ‘Hey, we want you to tighten your belts and lower the education level that’s delivered,’ and the board has to respond,” board member Robin Nelson wrote on Facebook, as reported by Eric Burgess of the Fargo Forum.
Board member Paul Meyers made the same threat to lower school quality:
Meyers responded to the naysayers by asking if they support raising class sizes and cutting specialized classes.
“Because that is most assuredly the outcome of this vote,” he wrote.
It seems pretty clear that Meyers and Nelson intend to make this hurt for voters and their children.
This vote comes after public outcry over the school district building the nearly $50 million Davies high school with no public vote, and spending millions to purchase the Bluestem Performing Arts Center which isn’t even in the school district. Or the City of Fargo. Or the State of North Dakota, for that matter. It’s in Moorhead, Minnesota.
But according to Meyers, the voters need to quit worrying about trivial things like super expensive facilities built with no accountability to the public:
Meyers said there was a surge of misinformation before the vote, with an undue focus on the district spending millions on the Bluestem Center for the Arts in Moorhead and the construction of Davies High School.
He called Bluestem a “feather in the cap of the community.” He compared the lack of a vote on the new high school to the city of Fargo not seeking a public vote to build a new $15 million City Hall.
In the Facebook post, Meyers lashed out against those who were concerned about Bluestem and Davies.
“If you think education is expensive … try ignorance,” he wrote. “This recurrent theme of ‘bad Davies’ ‘bad Bluestem’ is reasonably typical of the myths and misinformation that some of these people use for food.”
I’m not sure what “misinformation” has taken place about the Davies high school or Bluestem. It’s a fact that both were hugely expensive, and both were put on the backs of the taxpayers without a vote. That ticked off the taxpayers, and now the school board is feeling their wrath.
Someone might want to remind these clowns, that’s called democracy.
The school district can put another request to exceed the mill levy before the voters again – they have until the end of 2015 to either comply with the cap or get a “yes” vote from citizens – but before the next measure vote perhaps the folks in the Fargo school district should consider putting another issue on the ballot.