September 6, 2011
So those of us living in the city of Syracuse will not have a tax increase this year.
Like many, I find myself conflicted on this issue.
I am one of the few who don’t believe property taxes in the city are too high. I’ve lived in the suburbs and covered budget discussions in the towns and suburban school districts. The weight of city taxes is miniscule compared with the burden my suburban neighbors must shoulder. And in many cases, services in the city are just as good, if not better, than services in the towns.
But we’re not talking about trash removal and well-manicured parks here. We’re talking about the education of children, one of the most important and most challenging tasks we place on our public officials. So, many in the city are up in arms that the mayor used her veto to shoot down a plan to save the jobs of 35 educators, and the Common Council failed to override that veto.
Next year, my son will enter kindergarten in the city schools. He is a special needs child and it will cost the district a lot of money to provide the aides and therapeutic services he requires. So I would gladly pay more in taxes to ensure that he and his sister are given a quality education. The $50 or so this new tax would cost me is small potatoes compared with what I am willing to pay to make this happen. But I’m not opposed to Miner’s decision, because without an overhaul of the district, the $2.4 million this tax would raise won’t make much difference.
I don’t believe the city schools suffer because of a lack of good teachers. Those I’ve met, and those who taught me as a child growing up in Syracuse, were quality people who cared deeply for their students. But many – particularly at the middle school level and above – labor in poor working environments. They are challenged by students who could care less about the subject matter, who fail to see how it will impact their lives moving forward. They work without the benefit of technologies that are critical to inspiring and educating students in a 21st century atmosphere. And they spend as much time on discipline as on education.
Some have left the district not because of pay or benefits or lack of camaraderie with other good teachers. They’ve left for the greener pastures of the suburbs to teach kids who want to learn. When incoming Superintendent Sharon Contreras joins the fray in July, she will be greeted by a mayor who has indicated it is her priority to improve relations between City Hall and the district. That’s critical, because what this community requires is a strong partnership between the city and the district that focuses not only on the shortcomings of our schools but on the societal factors that lead to the failure of so many of our children.
Now that would be worth a tax increase.
David Tyler is the publisher of Eagle Newspapers. He can be reached at email@example.com.