The local newspaper finally picked up on the fact that the Livingston County Republican Party was trying to influence the Brighton Area Schools bond issue that was defeated on Election Day.
Better late than never, but it certainly let the party chair get off with a lame excuse; letting him claim that the predominate party in the county was not advocating for the election but simply allowing the opponents of the bond issue to store the campaign signs there.
A group calling itself "Parents Union Local No. 1" that is made up of members of the county party’s executive committee advocated for the defeat of the bond issue, and according to the article, Allan Filip, chair of the party, claims the party did not take a position. Right, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you.
The question the reporter or editor at the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus who wrote the piece should have asked is of the group operated by party officials is registered as a Political Action Committee or a ballot committee. In order to spend money to influence the outcome of an election must, which they admitted they paid for the signs, they must be registered.
The school district was seeking a $15 million bond for buses and technology, and a separate capital projects sinking fund on the Nov. 4 ballot. With the bond funds, the school would have purchased 1,600 new computers and 46 new school buses. While this is not entirely a new millage, it replaces an old one with a slightly higher millage.
The combined building millage and the technology/bus bond would equal about 1 mill, which is slightly higher than the building/sinking fund millage rate that expired in 2007. That millage rate was 0.9 mills, or 90 cents in taxes per each $1,000 of taxable value." It would have cost the owner of a $200,000 house $100 a year or about 28 cents a day.
That still would have left homeowners - in the most affluent area in one of the most affluent counties in the state - with the lowest school millage in Livingston County. Without those needed improvements, it will become more difficult to compete for school-of-choice students, causing the district to lose even more funding.
What is even more stunning is in light of the newspaper’s failure to ask a basic question, is an editorial in the same issue blaming the school board for the ballot failure because of the teacher’s contract they approved in April that gave teacher’s whopping 1.13 percent to 2.26 percent raise over three years, offset by requiring teacher’s to pay for their own health care.
“Tired of the fact that its school board steadfastly spends money it doesn't have, voters in the Brighton Area Schools district resoundingly defeated two requests for new taxes Tuesday,” the editorial begins.
Generally, editorials advocate for something, but I’m not sure what this one is advocating for. Being one of the most affluent communities in the area, it would make sense that in order to live here teachers need to make a decent salary. Many teachers live outside the community, but with zero mass transit opportunities they have to drive in to work. I know the price of gasoline has fallen steadily from its high marl of more than $4 a gallon, but I don’t think that’s going to continue. Teachers in Brighton are not even the highest paid in the county. That honor belongs to teachers in Pinckney Community Schools.
The editorial then goes after board member Joe Carney, who is a friend of mine. It calls him, “veteran board member Joe Carney.” I’m not sure how veteran a first-term board member can really be.
“Did the school board get the message? Not if the response by veteran board member Joe Carney is typical. As the thrashing of the tax issues became apparent election night, Carney deflected any responsibility from the school board. The fault, he said, belonged squarely on the back of recently departed Superintendent Jim Craig.”
The editorial goes on further to quote Carney, "I lay this on the very poorly ran campaign to get this done," Carney told our reporter. "The guy (Craig) that was supposed to be leading the parade, who recommended we do this, his mind was elsewhere."
Amazing. And wrong.”
I disagree. The superintendent is the one who recommended the millage. Plus, before being named superintendent he was the assistant superintendent for finance. His job is to sell the mileage within the constraints of campaign finance law. It seems a little suspect that in the most affluent district in the county he can’t sell a much needed millage that will cost homeowners a mere 28 cents a day. Instead, he was looking for a new job.
Clearly, that’s not the only reason for the defeat. The teacher’s contract, wrongly, contributed to the loss, but when the party that controls every political office in the county from U.S. Congress down to 90 percent of the township positions advocates for the defeat of a common sense proposal, some of the blame should be placed at their feet.
That’s where the newspaper should look, and they failed.