For a symbol of the unfortunate, diminishing sense of belonging to a greater community and contributing to a greater good, I don't have to look much further than opponents to Proposition 1, which is on the ballot in my local school district [Ladue, Missouri] on April 3.
The district is ranked as one of the best in the state. It includes some of the hugest houses in this state in one of the country's highest per-capita suburbs, and it wants to raise its operating levy by 49 cents per $100 assessed valuation. Would you be surprised to learn that a wealthy resident is almost singlehandedly funding an opposition campaign, planting "Vote NO" signs on the sweeping front lawns of some of the fanciest homes in the district?
I was intrigued to hear some opponents of the levy increase call it "excessive," so I decided to do a little research. Here's what I found and published on a local website. The facts and numbers may be local, but the issue is national: People with the most money who don't see why they should have to pay their fair share and who complain about being asked to pay "too much." I decided to examine just what "too much" might mean. More below the squiggle...
Is the increased levy in Ladue School District's Proposition 1 "excessive," as some opponents have termed it? The answer depends on what your definition of “excessive” is.
As voters in the Ladue School District debate the merits of a proposed 49-cent increase in the operating tax levy, some opponents say it’s too much and a waste of money. I've observed that many of the “NO on Prop 1” signs are planted on the spacious front lawns of some of the biggest homes in the district. And that makes me wonder, how much would the tax increase actually cost homeowners, and what else might they be buying with that money if they didn’t have to fork it over for the schools?
First, I learned that the median value of a home within the boundaries of the city of Ladue, in 2009, was $822,000. [Ladue School District encompasses more than just Ladue itself, but most of the most expensive homes are in the Ladue municipality.] That’s median, not average.
Next, I did a little math. Actually, Ladue School District’s Prop 1 site did the math for me. They’ve thoughtfully included a tax calculator, where you can input the value—either the appraised value or the assessed value [they’ different, and you can look yours up here]—and find out how much more you’d pay in taxes per year under Proposition 1.
OK. So, let's say, appraised value: $822,000. Annual tax increase if Prop 1 passes: $766 per year.
Is that excessive? One way to make that judgment is to see what other stuff your $766 might buy [if you’re living the presumed lifestyle of someone who owns a house worth $822,000 in the St. Louis, Missouri area] and to decide whether $766 for the schools has a greater return on investment. Here are a few examples:
One-month lease payment, 2012 Lexus RX-350: $760
7-day Carnival Cruise to Western Caribbean, balcony room, May 2012: $799 per person
Diane Von Furstenburg messenger bag, Nordstrom’s: $745
Round-trip ticket , St. Louis to Las Vegas, Frontier Airlines, “Classic Plus,” May 4-7, 2012: $678.18
Prada “Peep-toe” pump, Nordstrom’s: $780
Men’s Brera “Supersportivo” watch, Neiman-Marcus: $750
Are any of these "excessive" expenses?
My home, which is in the Ladue District, but not in Ladue itself, has a tax valuation of about half of the median. The handy tax calculator says that, if Prop 1 passes, I’ll pay $431 more per year in taxes. I guess that means I may have to pass on the Kitchen-Aid Pro-Line mixer[$350] I've been eyeing, or maybe veto that Specialized touring bike [$430] I'd probably never ride. They would have been frivolous, excessive purchases anyway. And we're not talking about my having to choose between buying either of those versus food for my family and/or paying my fair share for a decent school for my kids. And, by the way, I do understand that the location of my house within the Ladue District has quite a bit to do with its substantial appraised value.
So, if my lowly, additional $431 per year will help prevent a small percent of a teacher from being laid off, I'm definitely going to vote yes on Prop 1 and not complain about it.