The recent election reminds us of the various techniques public officials and politicians use to achieve tax increases. I often wonder if there is some reference manual they use to help them deceive the general public out of their money. A primer on deceitful methods might include a few of the skillful techniques I have witnessed over the years:
1. "It's only a pizza a week." This appeal was used for a time and suggests a tax is negligible and can be easily absorbed by typical households. But politicians ignore the cumulative creep effect that eventually leans toward giving up a pizza day until we starve.
2. There is the emotional and guilt-charged appeal: "It for the children." Or, it's for schools, veterans, or police, fire or other emergency responders; the tax is not justified but altruistically coerced. There are an infinite number of worthy causes but not all good ideas can be, or should be, supported by new taxes.
3. The "equivalency" appeal suggests that neighboring cities have higher taxes and because of this higher local taxes are justified. This type of argument never addresses the legitimacy of the other city's taxes. This is like the adolescent justifying his actions saying, "Billy's mom lets him do it."
4. The time limit ruse. This lie says a needed tax will stop, or sunset, after some period of time. But this is rarely true. City budgets become accustomed to the income during a tax's life span and relinquishing the politicians grip on our money is very difficult for them.
5. An insidious sleight-of-hand technique connected to the sunset ruse above is the promise that "Taxes will not be increased." Often when the time limit for a tax is imminent, an attempt to continue the tax through a another vote dangles the carrot of a new project suggesting it won't cost any more money in the form of "new taxes".
6. An older technique that remains a staple for the politician is the citizen survey crafted with questions that beg desired answers. The citizen survey becomes a tool for the tax advocate with the proclamation, "The people have spoken."
There are many more skillful and creative methods that are used by tax increase proponents. Sometimes the strategy is simply forcing multiple votes with the goal of wearing out their community; sometimes the vote for a new tax is positioned on the primary ballot hoping few will be paying attention. Politicians don't seem to understand many of their constituents see through their methods. But cities, just like households, should live within their respective budgets. Only when absolutely necessary should a justified tax increase be considered. Trust is lost when lies grow more creative and long-term fiscal responsibility is not a priority for our public officials.
After more than two years of planning and preparation, including nine very well attended Device Orientation sessions conducted since July 31, the talk of getting computers became a reality to 600 HHS students as they were issued their Apple MacBook Airs on Aug.15. Passes were distributed that morning to those students who by the end of the day on Aug. 14 could be verified as having completed the required documentation necessary in order to be able to take their devices home.
This first round of the device rollout was an example of the Harrisonville School District at its best. In less than seven hours, a team of Central Office and HHS staff, HHS student leaders, and community volunteers worked smoothly and efficiently to successfully process those 600 students through receipt and setup of their individual computers. Pride in ownership could be seen in every student who walked out of the Auxiliary Gym securely carrying their new learning tool – sentiments never witnessed when those same students were handed a textbook. One can be confident that students would not be using these devices to create a “second shelf” in their locker as is commonly done with their textbooks.
All day in hallways and classrooms, students were already exploring and talking with each other to see what was possible with the MacBooks. Their enthusiasm and excitement was obvious. Just as obvious was the disappointment by those students who missed getting their device on the first rollout because their required documentation was either incomplete or awaiting verification of completion. Again, a sentiment never witnessed when those same students missed getting textbooks checked out to them. These students were reassured a second rollout would occur during the first full week of school. They were also reminded that a MacBook would be available for them to use daily during school, and once the required documentation piece was completed and verified, they could take their device home.
HHS students will still receive the typical four to six textbooks this year along with the MacBook Airs. This device is the learning tool that allows students to go beyond what is inside their textbooks. District staff and Board members who have had the vision to initiate and steadfastly support the Learning Without Limits Initiative, which includes the implementation of the 1:1 device plan, are to be commended. Well done!