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In Palm Coast, Another Dud Turnout At School Tax Town Hall

| October 19, 2010

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It was Sue Dickinson's turn to face empty seats. (© FlaglerLive)

School officials had thought—and perhaps feared–that this would be the town hall meeting that would attract the tea partiers. The meeting, the fourth in a series of five on the school tax referendum on November’s ballot, was held at the Palm Coast Community Center on Palm Coast Parkway Monday evening and led by School Board Member Sue Dickinson. Even Superintendent Janet Valentine turned up to field questions if necessary. As did Andy Dance, another school board member. And one of the district’s technology guys, to handle the powerpoint presentation.

But no tea party throngs showed up. There were six people in the audience. When Dickinson was done, one or two of them had just a few questions, but they sounded supportive. And that was that.

“This shows me that there are returns on the investment,” Terry McClelland, in Palm Coast since 1995, said after Dickinson’s presentation. “And there aren’t that many returns on investment in government.” He described himself as a moderate conservative.

McClelland liked to know details behind requests for money. Speaking to Dickinson in one of the longer exchanges of the evening, he was more upset that he’d had to pay $3 to enter the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce’s Creekside Festival two weekends ago than he would be about a school tax. It wasn’t the amount. “It’s the principle of the thing,” McClelland said, noting how he was told that the chamber’s money was used partly to help the Princess Place Preserve, where the festival was held, and also to provide money for education. What education, McClelland wanted to know. He got no details at the festival.

He got a few details at the school tax presentation, especially the repeated notion that the 25-cent-per-$1,000 in valuation that the school board is asking of property owners is not a new tax, but a continuation of a tax they’ve been paying all along. The difference: the Legislature is forcing local school districts to ask voters’ permission to raise that portion of their funding, whereas in the past, school boards could vote on their own to continue the tax.

The tax raises about $2 million a year. The revenue supplements everyday operations–and offsets what the district projects will be a “funding cliff” of several million dollars after this school year, when federal stimulus money runs out.

Four school board members have each held a town hall meeting on the tax. The best attended drew 10 people. There’s one left, by Evie Shellenberger, at the Hammock Community Center on Malacompra Road on on Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m.

It’s impossible to tell what the low turnout means. Dance and other school officials are interpreting the low numbers as a good sign: if people aren’t fired up against the proposal, they won’t turn out to voice their opposition. It could just as well be that people have made up their mind one way or the other, though it’ll be impossible to tell until Nov. 2 which majority way that is.

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6 Responses for “In Palm Coast, Another Dud Turnout At School Tax Town Hall”

  1. silent says:

    do not count it as a good sign.

    people understand a tax is a tax

  2. Will says:

    What kind of comment is “people understand a tax is a tax”?

    Do those “people” to whom you refer understand that the schools can’t operate on volunteer contributions and run bake sales to fund operations?

    Maybe there are good taxes and bad taxes, but THIS is a tax that makes sense!

  3. Kyle Russell says:

    As a senior at Flagler Palm Coast High School, let me give my two cents on why the tax is needed. As many probably know, a bachelor’s degree earned today is roughly the equivalent of a high school diploma earned several decades ago, as far as qualifications required and income go. In that same time span, the financial aid and loans needed for many to attend college has become far easier to access. For that reason, the competition to get into the better colleges has skyrocketed. To stand out from the crowd, we must be qualified in terms of both academics and extracurriculars.

    Without the funding necessary to maintain programs such as IB, AP, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Future Problem Solvers, and Model UN, students from Flagler County would stand little chance in the competition for acceptance to the best colleges both within and outside of the state of Florida. Personally, I am the top-ranked student in the senior class, vice president of the math club, and a member of various other clubs, and even with all of these going for me I know that I am going against literally thousands of similarly qualified students when I apply to the top schools.

    Now, say what you will about “I’ve already sent my students though school” or “public education is horrible,” but please remember that the intelligent student held back by limited funding is also the doctor, engineer, programmer, or even teacher that could have been.

  4. Jim Guines says:

    Kyle Russell I like your comments and particularly from a student’s point of view. I would even like to read an expansion of your ideas. If you do not wish to use this space under comments just submit it to the editor and see if he will publish it.

  5. Cheryl Tristam says:

    Sing it Kyle!

  6. Liana G says:

    Kyle Russell – Thank you for your contribution.

    Let’s not limit it to only the intelligent students. All students deserve an opportunity because they all have the potential to contribute to society, but this would not happen if we do not invest in All of them.

    Remember Einstein. Also many famous people were/are dyslexic, suffer other learning disability / ESE but they have proven that investing in them was not a wasted effort.

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