Editorial: Tough choices, calm voices
Tax Commissioner Rich Westman has been touring the state for the past couple of months warning that current school spending was not sustainable without significant tax increases. He followed those warnings by becoming the first tax commissioner to recommend raising the statewide property tax. The first warnings barely made headlines back in October; the proposed statewide tax increase got most people’s attention; and now that local stories are reporting local taxes could go up 6 percent and budgets are still having to be cut substantially, most everyone is paying attention.But not everyone agrees on the problem, or the solution. That’s where you — the public — play a significant role.At upcoming school and town budget hearings, you’ll need to understand the issues to help make reasonable and practical decisions. Teachers and school officials will have to understand that increasing taxes alone may not be enough. Programs may be cut; jobs may be lost or, as the state union has done, salary increases put temporarily on hold until the economy recovers.The proposals to balance the budgets will be wrenching, but the long-term impacts don’t have to be. If we enter the upcoming budget discussions with a desire to do as little harm to a quality education and community services as possible, while understanding the tax burden can’t be much greater, ways will be found to persevere.Step one is to read what you can to understand the underlying causes and the most viable options. (More about that after the holidays.) Until then, don’t forget to smile, live well and love lots this holiday season — and put these discussions in perspective: What we’re facing is not impending doom, just a few tough choices to get past this Great Recession. Approach it that way, and we’ll find solutions with calm voices.