My Turn: I am voting ‘no’ on Measure A | SierraSun.com

My Turn: I am voting ‘no’ on Measure A

Dennis Lynch
Special to the Sun

TRUCKEE/TAHOE – Every year a new property tax measure appears on the ballot. This year it’s measure A. It doesn’t matter if previous measures passed or failed, more tax dollars are always needed for public education budget “shortfalls.” It’s always under the guise of “it’s for the children.” Furthermore, if you are against paying higher property taxes into a failing public education system, you are labeled as anti education, or even worse, against the children!

The current argument is that lower property tax revenues are the reason for these budget shortfalls. I do not disagree with the fact property values have declined resulting in less revenue. However, Measure A only taxes parcel owners and not the general public. These are public schools. How is it fair to tax a property owner who might have no children but not a renter who might have five kids in the public school system? Why would anyone vote against measure A if it doesn’t cost them a penny? Wouldn’t it be more logical if parcel owners, the people actually paying the tax increase, were the only ones who could cast a vote? Or even better, why not a local sales tax where everyone shares the burden? However the problem is much deeper than tax revenues.

The real problem with the Department of Education is the union CalSTRS and the unfunded pensions it provides. There are nearly 10,000 California State retirees who pull down more than $100,000 in annual pensions, costing California 1.5 billion dollars a year. Of this total, 3,090 of them are retired educators making over $100,000/year. Despite record losses in 2008, CalSTRS paid an “incentive award” to its chief investment officer of $208,000 on top of his base pay of $330,000. In total for 2008, CalSTRS paid $2.9 million in bonuses to 35 employees, all while the pension funds were tanking.

Capistrano Unified School District is nearing bankruptcy. Thanks to CalSTRS, a whopping 85 percent of the district’s budget (property tax dollars) goes to salaries, pensions and benefits. This is only one example and a microcosm of what is happening throughout California.

Meanwhile, CalSTRS will not negotiate a new contract and has not agreed to a single cut in pensions, benefits or salaries. The cuts CalSTRS are proposing instead target the kids and parents like eliminating all extra-curricular activities, sports programs, music programs, removing funds from facility maintenance, closing schools and eliminating summer school to mention a few.

I am not against pensions. Retirees should be compensated for dedicated service over a period of time. However I am against overpaying public sector retiree pensions with tax dollars. For example, a retired California school superintendent receives a $235,000 yearly pension even though she ran a small 4-school district with fewer than 4,000 students. To make things worse, many retired educators are “double dipping” by receiving their pensions and continuing working in the education system. A USC professor who, after serving as San Diego County Superintendent of Schools for 12 years, pulls down a quarter of a million dollar annual pension on top of his full-time salary at USC.

In the private sector a company has to answer to a board and its shareholders and actually fund the pensions it provides. In the public sector, when your tax dollars go to pay these ridiculous unfunded pensions, there should be some accountability. There needs to be some reasonable limitations to the amount paid and some restrictions in place if retirees return to work, particularly in the education system.

Think about that next time they want to increase your property taxes! Now the Rec/Park district is delaying progress on the pool at the new recreation center all because of Measure A. I guess the pool isn’t “for the children”?

I am voting ‘no’ on Measure A, and I am not “against the children” I actually love children and have raised four of them.

Dennis Lynch is a Truckee resident.