by Matt Marquardt, read to Mason City School Board on July 16, 2012 -
I have some prepared remarks regarding agenda items 2, 3 and 11. Item 2 is the 3.94% proposed pay raise for teachers; item 3 is an undisclosed pay raise for the Superintendent, Administrative employees, and others; and item 11 is regarding the board’s discussion to ask for new taxes in the community.
In general, I feel these three items feed off of each other.
As you grant these pay raises, and at the same time, little or no scrutiny is given to your overall budget, this board seems blind to the fact that the community can no longer support this spending spree.
As I look upon this board, most of you are from above-average income households, households with doctors, lawyers and other professionals in them. You seem to ignore the fact that property values have dropped in Mason City; in many cases, you cannot sell your home for what you could in 2001, even as the cost of living soars.
As one NorthIowaToday.com reader pointed out this morning, FEMA and the city have bulldozed many homes, and “city owned property don’t pay taxes.”
Jobs are scarce in Mason City unless you are willing to wait tables, push carts, or stand behind a counter. There are countless citizens on fixed incomes, inching by. The community has been punished for years by a murderer’s row of increases from Alliant Energy, City Hall water rates, the grocery store and… the Mason City School District.
Just today on NorthIowaToday.com, a woman calling herself “Erica” wrote “I work over 40 hours a week & it isn’t enough to support one child, myself & our pets. I receive food stamps & WIC even though I work over time. Minimum wage Mason City jobs just don’t cut it.”
In my interaction with the community, and I’m not talking about the country club types or the cultural crescent dwellers, I’m talking about real people that don’t have much, they know hardly anything about this school board, what you spend, where your money comes from. They may not care; their concerns lie in making their rent and sometimes their next meal. What I do hear consistently is that the Mason City School District will ask, ask, ask for more from the community, spend it all, and then ask for more. Is this the reputation you want in the community?
As I canvas the city at all hours, I see what you are ignoring; I see people shuffling down the street, pushing can carts, many homes in disrepair, weeds; shuttered businesses. The community is deteriorating from the bottom-up, and yet you ask for more. You have student enrollments dropping year after year; you serve fewer children, this is undeniable and there is no reverse to this trend in sight. You have near-record numbers of children on free and reduced price lunches.
Why do you think this is?
Could it be because parents make less money?
And yet you ask for more. Do you not realize that your budgets and tax burdens reach all corners of the city, it affects all citizens?
The rental industry in this city is booming at this time. The landlords will absorb your tax increases and pass it on to their tenants. The downward cycle continues.
I would implore this school board to think of the community first and not simply how to grab cash for the district and your colleagues that work for it; do not ask for more. Why can’t you set an example for the kids and work with what you have, go back to the basics. Instead of $50,000 for assessments to show teachers what their students are not learning, try a pop-quiz; that’s how we did it back in the day.
Mrs. Micich, and other administrators making over six figures, I would ask you, how much is enough, how much more can you squeeze out of this town? This is not West Des Moines, this is not Iowa City, people just plain make less here, and so should you.
To the school board, your volunteer service is appreciated. That being said, I would ask you to go back to the drawing board and tighten the belt, perhaps even shrink the budget if that is possible. Forget your established long-time friendships, allegiances and routines; you do not serve them. You serve the citizens of Mason City. The community would be grateful.