It's time to have your say, citizens

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Maybe the proposed tax increase will get Silent Sams to speak up.

TUESDAY EVENING, beginning at 6:30 p.m., decision-makers for the School District of Beloit will convene a public hearing where individuals can give their input on the 2017-18 budget plan. The hearing will take place in the board room at the Kolak Education Center, 1633 Keeler Ave.

After that hearing the board is scheduled to take its vote, up or down, on the budget.

And quite a plan it is. Total spending will be more than $100 million. That's down from more than $102 million last year. But largely because state aid decreased the new budget includes a hefty property tax increase. The owner of a $100,000 home could see his property taxes increase by about $280.

BUDGETS ARE DAUNTING because they are filled with row after row of numbers, and let's face it - arithmetic is not a strong point for many people. Understanding the complexities of public education financing is a rare talent.

But try to look at this another way.

All a budget really comes down to is a series of decisions. By saying yes or saying no elected board members agree or disagree with the decisions being made by appointed administrative staff regarding such things as how many teachers there will be, what they will teach, what they will be paid, and so on. Add it all up and you have a budget, but it is built one item at a time through decision-making.

Those decisions are supposed to line up with an over-arching educational philosophy adopted by the community's school leaders, and implemented in the classrooms. Once approved those decisions set the direction not only today but for the future as well, because the schools are in the business of training tomorrow's citizens, workforce and leaders.

AND YOU - THAT'S RIGHT, YOU - have a say in that process. Should the district be spending $100 million? Should it be spending it on the things proposed? Do you have confidence in the fiscal stewardship of the administration and board? Do you have your own suggestions? Are you willing to sign off on the tax increase?

This is one of the more frustrating points in the public sector - people who seem not to care, no matter how important or expensive it is. The only thing more frustrating is the people who tune out now but complain later.

District leaders are ready to listen. Then they will vote. The stakes are not just financial, but include the future of your community. Got anything to say?

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