Cupcakes for schools

Unrealistic: Survey suggests Anne Arundel taxpayers believe repair bill can be paid painlessly.

April 02, 1999

ANNE ARUNDEL County residents must believe in the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. How else to explain a recent survey from Anne Arundel Community College's Center for the Study of Local Issues that shows residents are aware that schools are in desperate need of repair, but think they can be fixed without a tax increase?

For Professor Daniel Nataf, this is old news. Since he began conducting this semiannual survey in 1995, one finding has been consistent: Taxpayers have a phobia about raising taxes to solve county needs. Although a majority of poll respondents considered the county's backlog of school repairs serious, less than a quarter said they would favor raising real property or income taxes to respond.

They favor a number of unrealistic solutions instead. Though a study group last year estimated the bill for completing the repairs at $400 million -- practically the cost of running the schools for a year -- a significant number of residents seem to think that lotteries, slot machines and bake sales could cover that astounding sum.

Aside from the unrealistic hope that the Maryland General Assembly would allow the county to return to the days of slot parlors on its major beach routes, these solutions are premised on the belief that others should pay for the repairs.

Even more surprising is the strong support for financing repairs by increasing the county's debt. Borrowing money for operating costs is a prescription for a long-term disaster.

No painless way exists to pay for school repairs. That's an unpleasant reality. Unless parents are willing to send their children to decrepit schools, politicians will have to consider increasing taxes. It is completely unrealistic to expect county government to finance a major program of school repair and renovation simply by selling sweets.

Pub Date: 4/02/99

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