The Aiken County School Board decided to set the school improvements bond referendum vote for May 25, which shows just how out of touch government can be from taxpaying citizens.
With primaries for every office from governor and Congress on down scheduled by both parties for June 8 why could the bond vote not be held that day?
Instead polls must be opened twice and employees must schedule their work hours around two elections in a two-week period, with a potential third if runoffs occur.
The actual cost to the taxpayer is more than $40,000 for this May 25 vote. That is the equivalent to two part-time teachers, 28 Smart Boards for classrooms and the budgets for arts education and technical classroom equipment.
Is this decision some trick to induce greater voter apathy and force even lower voter turnout for the primaries? Why are the taxpayers sitting back and allowing this waste of funds and disrespect of our time to occur?
The Aiken Board of Realtors has come out against the bond referendum because of its cost. Along with the price tag associated with the special vote, homeowners and businesses would be hit with another tax burden.
While the realtors have been criticized for this stand, some wonder whether those voicing disapproval understand all the issues.
What some voters may not fully understand is that South Carolina Act 388 shifted the burden of funding schools away from property tax revenue and onto sales tax revenue. Yet, the state still has sales tax-free holidays in place during the period when a majority of “Back to School” shopping is done.
With the federal and state deductions on income tax for children, the majority of funding for education comes from those without children.
Business owners are also bearing the burden of funding education, along with the increase in business license fees, new federal mandates, healthcare costs, workers’ compensation, liability insurance premiums, payroll taxes, etc.
It comes down to this: Do we want people to have the jobs that businesses provide or do we want businesses to pay for education? There is not enough money to have them do both, yet our legislators are acting as though there is.
This is a major reason why our state unemployment rate is so high and why the General Assembly feels the need to give tax breaks to entice businesses to locate here.
Those who have second homes in the area do not, generally, get to vote here, yet they pay for the education of children in the public school system.
Our constitutions, both state and federal, allow for taxation, but they call for equality, as well.
If the Aiken County School Board thinks it has been acting as wise stewards of taxpayer dollars, why spend more than $40,000 to conduct a special vote when it could add the issue to the June 8 ballot?
Why has the board not been setting aside a portion of its budget every year earning interest to pay for improvements? Why have the itemized budgets for the improvements not been published so the taxpayers can see how much is being spent and on what?
Finally, why do we as voters stand for this blatant waste of our money and disrespect of our time? We must demand accountability from ourselves and our government.
Jane Page Thompson is an accredited land consultant and realtor from Aiken. She is active in her community and is involved in local political party grassroots development.