I wrote a column back in June gently suggesting some strategies to Brevard Public Schools to help them pass the increase in sales tax they are asking for on the November ballot. I say “gently” since I work for them.
I noted that they – at least initially – had a proposal that had merit for consideration. I said it was targeted and limited – two good qualities (if there are any) for a tax increase.
I also wrote – however – that they probably had a problem with older voters, which is who votes in Brevard County. I told them they should market the notion that schools serve the public by graduating students who are ready for college or ready for work - not that they "serve every student." I said they should very overtly even change that mission statement as a reflection.
They didn’t listen.
So I’ve got one more suggestion prior to the public relations tour they have scheduled over the next couple of weeks.
They need to be specific as to what will be cut if the tax increase doesn’t pass.
Currently BPS has gone to great lengths explaining where the money has come from in the past, why this money is needed now, why we don’t have it, and how it will be spent. The missing piece in the explanation is what happens if there is no money.
Right now, BPS names some areas that “might” be cut. And of course the list is a broad sweep over many areas – hence causing concerns for many demographic groups.The arts, choice schools, sports - to name a few.
Their website says, “Many programs and services that we don’t have to do, but choose to do because they make us such a great district, may be reduced or eliminated.”
The problem with this strategy is that it is suspect. Nothing rankles many of us more than when local governments threaten us with fewer police officers and firefighters when budget cuts are in the offing – when we all know that the last thing cut will be first responders.
I guess BPS believes in the political mindset of the cobbling together of small interest groups – hoping that enough of them added up will reach the needed number of 50% + 1.
It is risky to be sure.
Voters are more likely to give the explanation an open-minded hearing if they know they are being told the full story.
I am not convinced that even with this addition to the argument the proposal will pass. But at least this gives it a fighting chance.
People are more likely to spend more if they know what will happen if they choose not to.