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Howard Sasson: Strong school system worth the investment

To the editor:

I find it curious that Councilor Gene Tacy “spontaneously” took the opportunity at a recent City Council meeting to attack Pam Schwartz for allegedly celebrating increasing taxes. Could it be that Tacy’s election campaign has already started?

I think most people agree this community needs to have a strong public educational system that provides equal educational opportunities for all the city’s residents. Schools are supposed to be America’s engine of social mobility. Smaller classes sizes and programs in art and music should not be available only to those who can afford to go to private schools or have the wherewithal to send their kids to charter schools.

We are increasingly a society of haves and have-nots and the growing inequality in the educational system is a contributing factor. In the so-called new economy all of our children are going to be in trouble unless we can provide them with high quality, relevant and affordable educations. In fact, I can’t think of a better use for my tax money. I certainly would rather see my taxes go to education than to supporting uncontrolled military spending.

I think most people in this community would also agree that the over-reliance on regressive property taxes to fund public education is unfair.

The situation has only gotten worse because of cuts in state aid over the last five years. As a community, are we really willing to have the discussion about how to fairly tax people according to their ability to pay?

A more equitable system would be a graduated income tax, which is now prohibited by the state constitution. While many people pay lip service to the goal of a fairer tax system, every time the graduated income tax has comes up for a vote in the past, it has been roundly defeated as “anti-business.”

We also need to examine the laws exempting educational and religious institutions from real estate taxes.

None of this would be simple or easy, but it makes a lot more sense than attacking people for having the audacity to demand a good life for our community’s children.

Howard Sasson

Florence

Legacy Comments3

Please Counselor, explain how a graduated tax system is "fair". Additionally, please cite other mainstream systems based on "according to their ability to pay".

Practical: Please explain how a graduated tax system is unfair. We'd love to hear your rationale. And to the author, that picture of Pamela Schwartz gloating on the success of the override made me physically ill. To me, and others, she represents much of what is wrong with city government. Help the homeless...(tents in her backyard? No way!) Finance luxuries at the expense of the middle class? YES!Northampton. The hell with the working stiffs. We're tired of feeling that over-sized hand in our small pockets, stealing our money for the YES!Northampton agenda. Where has investing in education actually gotten us? Extreme student debt... No jobs for college graduates...Unemployed youngsters moving back in with Mom and Dad, who may lose their house because of multiple overrides and water/sewer bill increases. I'm not seeing a return on our education dollars. Should every child have the opportunity to go to college? Of course not! Who would drive the garbage trucks? Clean your office? Fix your plumbing? Empty your wastebaskets? Mow your lawn? "...a good life for our community's children"... at what expense? What about a good life and retirement for all of us middle-class workers? Who speaks for us? Not you, and certainly not 'Pam' Schwartz.

You make some good points, Mr. Attorney, but I suppose it's not too much of a sacrifice for you to pay extra on your property taxes. But there are some things you just don't get. One is that there are people in this community who have little or no disposable income--and not because they've been lazy or extravagant. Also, many of these people have been supporting the community for decades--and even decades after their children graduated from local schools. Many have experienced long spells of privation. They try to keep up their homes but there's always the worry of regular and unexpected repairs. Look at the obits--more and more people are living into their 90s: a very worrying prospect on modest pensions and tiny interest earnings on life savings. Yet these people are not supposed to make a peep of protest. And if they do, they get vilified. No, I think it's you that has the audacity to object to a lone councilor speaking up on their behalf.

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