Measure S: The Wrong Way
Allowing non-property owners, non-citizens, temporary residents, vacationers and anyone happening to drive by the Registrar’s Office to vote the imposition of a tax on property owners while, at the same time not giving these property owners notice of this event and the right to vote on this tax proposal is an act that violates the very fiber of this nation. As a young student, I remember being taught that the birth of this nation started with the idea that “taxation without representation” accounted for a revolution. Yet, here we are – the very education system that embedded into our souls that fairness is our natural right is now extorting property owners. If you vote, please do the right thing and vote NO!
All Mammoth property owners already pay taxes that directly support the Mammoth Unified School District. By doing so, property owners directly support the MUSD. We have expressed our affection for the Mammoth Lakes area by having invested in it. It annoys us when casual interlopers brand themselves as “local,” for some sort of invented special status and attempt to treat us as second class citizens simply because they sleep in Mammoth seven nights a week. At the same time, these interlopers, who use the schools and the non-property owners who will vote in favor of this tax, pay nothing to directly benefit the MUSD.
While my principal objection herein is the intellectually dishonest method used by the MUSD to insult property owners, I also believe it only fair for me to also suggest alternatives to this ill-gotten parcel tax idea. If additional revenues are really needed, and I seriously doubt they are, a proper revenue source would be one that reaches those who actually use the school system — a school supply assessment, a transportation assessment, even a sales tax increase or utility tax would more fairly spread the District’s conjured up need for more money.
Several years ago, the first parcel tax imposed by the District came with the representation to the community that the parcel tax was “temporary,” only necessary to get over whatever was invented at that time to justify the tax. Since then, the District’s conduct shows the representation to be false. Money to governmental agencies is addictive. The MUSD, like Congress and the state legislature, is unwilling to take a very hard look at cutting expenses. As we all have experienced, government agencies will always try the easy route of asking for more money before being forced to cut expenses. There is now so much disgust over this endemic problem that it has spurned the nation’s “Tea Party” movement.
I opine that the MUSD is a pampered district wherein those who use it simply want to continue being pampered rather than being fair. From statistics posted by the MUSD online, I find relevant facts to consider when deciding whether Measure “S” is really necessary:
1) The average pupil to teacher ratio in the MUSD, is 16 to 1, which is grossly less than the state average. Other districts dream of a 21 to 1 ratio. Most school districts do just fine with 30 to 1 ratios and send their students to major universities.
2) Salaries for MUSD teachers are as high as $81,535, the midrange is $63,703, and each exceed the state average by 12% and 13% respectively. Oh, it costs more to live in Mammoth, not any more and less for the foreseeable future.
3) The MUSD midrange teacher’s salary exceeds the median income of a Mammoth Lakes homeowner by approximately 7%.
4. The graduation rate in MUSD exceeds the state average by approximately 25%, the dropout rate is slightly less than the state average, the per student spending exceeds the state average by approximately 8% and the student/teacher ratio is significantly less.
My point: MUSD is a great district to have a student enrolled but there is fat that can be cut before asking a few hundred voters in a special election to secretly impose upon about 9,000 property owners a dishonestly conceived parcel tax.
Each of these 9,000 property owners have a right to register in Mono County for this special election and express their constitutional right by voting on Measure S. Some resort communities in this great nation have put in place ordinances allowing all property owners to vote on local matters and federal courts have consistently opined that this is constitutionally protected conduct.
No federal court has stated that a group of property owners being singled out for a parcel tax can be denied their right to register to vote for or against that tax. But the right to register carries with it the obligation of the proponents of such a tax to give fair notice. Fair notice has not been given. I even tried to file an “Objection” to Measure “S.” But the Registrar’s Office told me that the time for doing so has long passed. Isn’t that convenient?
Some uninformed local official is likely to respond to my objection with the suggestion that there is “no harm, no foul” as they have this misguided idea that you cannot register in Mono County unless your “principal” residence is in the County. Let me tell you that this ridiculous idea has been beaten to death by me and others reporting this constitutionally offensive notion to the Mono County Grand Jury. Not even the Grand Jury could come up with any state or federal law that supports the “principal” residence idea.
All right-thinking individuals agree that before you are required to pay a tax you should be given notice, an opportunity to express your opinion and the opportunity to vote. This sneaky parcel tax should be summarily denied. Please vote NO! Defeating Measure “S” will send a proper message to all Mono County special districts.
Fairness, as a natural right, demands that all persons being taxed be given the opportunity to cast a vote. Until this happens, please vote NO!
City Attorney, retired
Mammoth Lakes voter/resident
Yes on S
I am a teacher and parent in the Mammoth School District, and I would like to emphasize the need to pass Measure S (the local school parcel tax). Measure S is a renewal of a $59 per year tax that we have been paying for the last 8 years. The tax generates $660,000/year for the schools – money that the state does not have access to cut. The state has cut district funding by more than 3 billion dollars in the last 3 years, which has forced our school district to make significant cuts to the budget – nearly $1 million. This parcel tax money will generate over $3 million dollars for the next 5 years to maintain small class sizes, textbooks, libraries, technology, and athletics, and more. As a teacher, my small class of 24 students will increase considerably. As a parent, my children will endure a more difficult educational experience. If Measure S does not pass, our programs will be cut, our students will suffer, and our community will be affected. Vote YES on S!