Thursday, February 8

SILO Should be Farmed Out

In my part of Iowa there is an election on Feb. 13th to decide whether an additional 1% sales tax will be invoked.

The best way to decide which way to vote for any tax is to understand what it is and how it works. Go here to learn the nuts and bolts about SILO. Here's a map of where SILO and other supplemental taxes exist.

When you view the map, you will find that Johnson and Linn counties are the only two without the SILO and Johnson is the only one without any supplemental taxation. One might conclude, these two counties (and the voters, therefore) are swimming against the tide. I would conclude that these are two very wealthy counties who have historically been relatively fiscally-conservative.

Education is a very important to the future of Iowa, but when pragmatists see their choices as yes or no, they tend to take the path of least resistance (which in this case is yes). In case you haven't figured it out, I'm a populist and a progressive, not a pragmatist and based on my values, these are the reasons I will vote against the SILO:

1) The state formula for funding schools does not take into account the real cost of education (yes, school infrastructure is a real cost) and there should be an increase of per student allocations to the localities to address this disparity. This is a statehouse issue.

2) Sales tax is regressive--this means people who can't afford an additional 20% increase in their sales tax are at the mercy of those who can. Speaking of which, if you can afford to part with 1% of your disposable income, Community Foundations need your cash.

3) Accountability: it is clear how the funds can be spent on paper, but it is not clear how needs must be prioritized or, indeed if needs truly exists. Though there is a requirement for using SILO to provid a justification for a project, it is not rigorous, nor bound by anything more than the whims of the school board membership.

4) Education is inefficient because of the inherent castle-building that occurs within school districts. Ignoring obvious economies of scale, such as consolidating school district administration/boards, transportation, sports facilities, supply purchases, facilities planning, etc. are examples of ways school districts can use their resources better.

5) This particular SILO referendum is heinous because it is promotes greed in enacting it--we are getting something for nothing (shoppers from other counties drop millions in taxes in the two communities that are not shared back home) for 5 years we won't have to share our resources with the other school districts--using that kind of logic, don't approve the SILO and we won't either.

6) Property taxes can be rolled back by the SILO, but it helps more affluent homeowners, not low-income renters. Since taxes are paid invisably in the price of rent, landlords are likely to pocket their savings and not reduce rents.

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