Letter: My remarks to school board

Published 7:02 pm Friday, October 25, 2019

Dear Editor,

I was grateful to the members of the TCSS Board of Education for their willingness to hear public comment on the senior property tax issue at their October work session. As the LDN noted in its coverage, I was privileged to speak at that meeting. I wanted to share the full text of those remarks (below) with a broader public who were unable to attend the meeting.  Here is what I said, with a brief section cut due to space limitations:

“I am here to speak as a member of what I believe to be a majority of LaGrange citizens: dutiful but quiet citizens who believe that the education of our young people is the most important thing we can do for the future of our community. We fully support our school system in its efforts and have great confidence and hope in our newly appointed leader. We want to give him all that he, his leadership team, our principals, our teachers and our staff need to help TCSS become the best it can be. And, we are proud and grateful to support that effort through our tax dollars, whether we are young or old, working or retired.

Yes, I know that I make this statement as a college president of a non-profit enterprise. But you need take only one brief glance at my graying hair, growing paunch and slowing gait to realize that at some point in the not-too-distant future I will be joining the ranks of retired senior citizens. (Note: I made that statement knowing that I would announce my intention to retire to our board later that week. My wife and I are currently searching for a house of our own in LaGrange. Prior to that, we owned a house on College Avenue which we sold earlier this year).

I applaud the school system for taking a careful, fact based, transparent approach to considering this question, one with people of good will and intent on both sides. What I would ask of you as you proceed is that you take ample time to weigh the facts and others’ experience with this as carefully as you can, keeping the following questions in front of you: If the move shifts the tax burden from one group to another, how will that impact both groups? What impact will that have on the community? If the goal is to help our poorer citizens who own property, what will the impact be to the large number of even poorer seniors who rent their homes, who have property taxes passed on to them in their rent? Will they receive any benefit, or perhaps suffer from future higher rates passed on in higher rents? If budget cuts are required to do it, where will they likely come—most likely I imagine from reducing the number of teachers? How will that impact student learning?

On this last, I would beg you, whatever you do, make it at least revenue neutral. Let’s not cut the legs out from under Dr. Shumate just as he is beginning to form his plan for doing all that we invited him here to do.

Dan McAlexander