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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Board needs to tread easy on tax issues

  • On Wednesday night, the Wayne Highlands School Board voted to start the process of refinancing a bond and borrowing additional funds for capital improvements.
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    On Wednesday night, the Wayne Highlands School Board voted to start the process of refinancing a bond and borrowing additional funds for capital improvements.
    The reason they are doing the refinancing is to get a much better interest rate. That's a good step by the board.
    But the board also decided to go for an additional $1.5 million in capital improvement bonds.
    According to school officials, the move will raise the debt service millage by .017 percentage points.
    That is not a lot, however, it is an increase.
    How it will impact overall taxes remains a big question. With contract negotiations ongoing with the teacher's union, the final budget has yet to be determined. Hopefully, the board will do everything in its power not to increase any taxes through a tough negotiating process.
    What cannot be lost, however, is the fact the board did vote to increase the tax rate, albeit by a small amount.
    The reason the board is in this position is because there has been sound financial management over the years. That is not in question.
    But residents are wary of tax increases. The board has increased taxes each year for decades. That means the bite comes out of the taxpayers year in and year out.
    Sure, it might not be a huge increase, but any increase can harm a lot of people who pay taxes.
    Those on fixed incomes and workers who are actually making less simply can't afford to keep paying higher taxes.
    We do applaud the board for being pro-active when it comes to making sure the school facilities are up to standards. We all want our students to have great learning environments.
    But we do caution the board members to be careful when it comes to raising taxes. You are pricing some people right out of the district and that is not good for anyone.
    Again, the key to taxes hangs in the balance of the ongoing contract negotiations. Salaries and benefits are where the budget rubber hits the road in any district.
    Wayne Highlands is no exception.
    We are not saying those who work for the district don't deserve a fair deal. In fact, they do deserve a fair deal.
    But so do the taxpayers who have been hit with tax increases for so long. Giving them a great deal should be front and center for the elected members of the school board. They were put into office to watch over the money of the people. That is task number one and some members of the public think that hasn't happened over the years.
    Page 2 of 2 - The time is now for it to happen.
    One of the biggest problems facing the public is the fact contract negotiations are all done behind closed doors. Neither side has shown any indication of letting the public know how the talks are going even though it is public money which is being negotiated.
    That may be the biggest tragedy here. What would it hurt for each side to state publicly where they are at and what issues are being discussed?
    It would not.
    All the secrecy does is make the public more and more skeptical and that taints the entire process.
    We implore the board and the teachers union to say something. Let the public know how your discussions about their money are going.
    It would go a long way toward better relations.

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