In a column in the April 6, 2008 Wichita Eagle, columnist Mark McCormick writes about the proposed $350 million bond issue for USD 259, the Wichita public school district, and states: “For the average Wichitan, taxes will rise about $45 a year.” How he arrived at this figure is unknown. He may be referring to bond supporters’ claim that the taxes on a home worth $100,000 will increase by about $40 per year. But that’s quite different from what Mr. McCormick stated.
The actual figure might be computed this way: According to reporting in Mr. McCormick’s newspaper, the proposed bond issue is estimated to cost $590.6 million in principal and interest over 20 years. The state of Kansas will pay about 25%, so the residents of USD 259 will have to pay only $443 million. That’s about $22 million per year. Divide that by the 311,228 people living in USD 259 (not the city of Wichita, as that’s a different political subdivision) and you get, in round dollars, $71. (It’s really more, because USD 259 residents will pay taxes to the State of Kansas just to get some of the bond issue paid for.)
But let’s don’t quibble over the amounts. What’s more important is that Mr. McCormick attempts to trivialize this expense by comparing it to ten other expenditures that people may make, such a buying cable television or coffee at Starbucks. What Mr. McCormick evidently fails to recognize is that each of the ten expenditures he cites are voluntary transactions that people may make or choose not to make. USD 259, however, collects its revenue not through voluntary transactions, but through taxes. People don’t have a choice whether to pay. There is a big difference between what Starbucks does to generate revenue and what the Wichita public school district does.
But even this is not the worst of Mr. McCormick’s column. By far the worst part of this column is his endorsement of the delay of the bond issue election from May 6, 2008 to some unspecified future date. This action by the Wichita school board and Citizens Alliance for Responsible Education (CARE) teaches a terrible example about the value of integrity and sportsmanship to the young people of Wichita. Nothing that the bond issue could build is more valuable than these lessons. I hope that in time and with due reflection that Mr. McCormick will change his mind about his endorsement of this action.