Addressing the referendum

  • Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dear Editor,
I wanted to share some thoughts with you and your staff related to the upcoming Berkeley County School Improvement Referendum that will be on the November 6th ballot for our vote.
Just a little background first:  My name is Mike Johnson.  I am 31, live in Moncks Corner, and was born and raised in Berkeley County.  I have been educated through the County's public school system.  I am writing to for 3 main reasons:  To share my opposition to this school improvement referendum (and reasons why); To share my sincere disappointment in the Yes4Schools campaign, the Berkeley County School Board, and others involved; and to address the reality of  the issues.

Opposition.  I must first state that being a product of the public school system in Berkeley County, I am a HUGE advocate and supporter of public education, and therefore I do in fact care deeply about the Berkeley County school system and the children that it is currently, and will be educating.  However, I am not in favor of this currently proposed referendum.  Most people are not aware of it, but to pay for this $198 million dollar construction of 5 new schools and renovations at other existing schools, the County will be raising our property taxes.  I say enough is enough.  It seems like every 4 years, there’s some movement about to increase taxes.  It’s time that the public servants begin to practice good stewardship of the large amount of money that they’re already collecting.  When will the line ever be drawn?  Additionally, to increase property tax (on homes/property valued > $100k) is to single out only a portion of the County’s citizens to foot the bill for this proposed construction.  This includes citizens that are retired, citizens that home school or send their kids to private school, citizens that have kids that are no longer in the school system, etc. to foot the bill for services that they don’t even utilize.  Bottom line – increasing tax of any kind is a poor solution, and increasing property tax is an unfair, poor solution.

Sincere Disappointment.  I have been very disappointed as I have read articles that have appeared a bit skewed (in my opinion) in showing ‘favor’ toward this referendum.  They have come across giving the impression that Berkeley County as a whole, the leadership of the County, and the various employers of the County all support the referendum.  Well I’m here to tell you that from the “average Joe’s” perspective, there are many tax paying citizens that are not in favor of this referendum.  Most importantly, I will share with you that because of work-related travel, I will not be here to vote on Nov. 6th.  Therefore, I registered for and received my absentee ballot and have since proceeded to submit my vote(s).  Did you know that no where on the ballot or in the referendum description does it explain to the voter where the $198M funding for these school construction projects will come from?  To the average voter, they will walk in and say “Sure I support the children and the schools” without even knowing that their taxes will be increasing by voting “yes”.  Whoever is responsible for the verbiage on the ballot describing this proposed referendum should be ashamed.  To the citizens that do know the truth, it comes across very sneaky and dishonest to leave out the facts about the associated tax increase.  I was sincerely disappointed that this FACT was conveniently left out of the referendum description on my absentee ballot.  I am hoping that the description on Nov. 6th may be revised to contain the full facts of the matter.

Reality.  I realize that schools can be overcrowded and that there may be a need to build some new schools to address this.  However, the reality is that overcrowding in Berkeley County schools is not a new phenomenon.  I went to Sangaree Elementary, Sangaree Intermediate, College Park Middle, and Stratford High School.  From elementary school through graduating high school, I had classes in trailers.  My freshman year at Stratford, there was 40+ trailers.  I agree that trailers are not the ideal answer, but they’re a ‘tried and true’ way to temporarily deal with this issue until responsible tax collection and spending can be used to construct new facilities – at locations that actually need new facilities.  One other note about this overcrowding issue: if the increasing amount of students coming into the schools is as much as they say, I’m thinking that theoretically, you shouldn’t need to increase property tax.  It seems like all of these new students would have families that would be a part of a larger tax base?  More families moving in and buying new homes, spending money within the County…shouldn’t this be creating more taxes to for the County to spend on schools, without having to raise any rates?

In closing, I would encourage all of the citizens of Berkeley County to please consider a “NO” vote on Nov. 6th for the School Improvement Referendum.  Please at least be fully educated on all of the facts before you vote otherwise.    

Mike Johnson
Moncks Corner, SC

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