Tales from the Mark side: The conservative voice of Manatee County

By Mark Young

The Manatee County School District’s special election to continue a 1 mill special tax on Nov. 2 for another three years should be put down like a rabid rat. A mill, of course, is $1 for every $1,000 of your property’s value. At the current millage rate, you are paying about $7 for every $1,000 of your property’s worth. Though the district seeks to lower the millage rate slightly in their monstrous budget proposal, the district will still collect about $317 million more than they did last year because property values continue to rise. All of our local governments like to say, “Oh we aren’t raising taxes.” Legally and literally, yes they are so don’t act like you are doing us a favor. If we pay more than we did the previous year just because our property is worth more, it’s a tax increase.

Now that we got through all that boring stuff, let’s talk reality.
When you put something out for voters to decide, doesn’t it really come down to trust? Do you really trust what are essentially the corporate executives of the district with your money? Are the decisions this district has made over the past scandal-ridden decade worth you voluntarily giving them more money? I would hope the answer is no and no should be your vote on Nov. 2. The district sold the last special mill tax as a means to pay teachers more, but that didn’t happen for quite some time. What it did do, is free up room on their budget to give raises to their top six executives.
Manatee County Commissioners George Kruse and Kevin Van Ostenbridge were right to challenge the district’s proposal to hold yet another special election in order to sustain the special mill tax. I understand that the district said they have to do this before next year’s election cycle because the 2018 referendum expires before that. However, there should never be a special election when it comes to tax dollars.
First of all, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct a special election, and secondly you can be guaranteed that if someone wants a special election, they count on low voter turnout to succeed. The 2018 special election drew about 12% of registered voters. It’s a leftist strategy designed to take something from you, and this special election should not have been allowed to move forward. For one, I don’t believe it will be successful and is, and will be, a colassal waste of money that could have been put toward … oh I don’t know, maybe education? No, instead the district wants to spend more of you money to give them more money, which includes the creation of a $100,000 position to push their false narratives down your throat for the Nov. 2 special election. The district has never had too many concerns about wasting money, because it’s not their money. It’s your money. If you’ve paid attention over the years, you’ve seen the scandals and mismanagement of your dollars. Why would you give them more?
You tell your child too bad, so sad. You were lucky to get the $20 and you need to learn how to budget how you spend it. 
It’s time to tell the district the same thing. You were lucky to get our money in the first place. Now learn how to budget how you spend it. If you can’t provide a quality, functioning school district with $1 billion, please move on, you suck at your job.
Despite a strong push from conservatives across the county to hold the district’s spending in check and force more accountability in 2018, the referendum passed with 51% of the vote in a predictable low turnout special election. If I understand it correctly, teachers in Manatee County finally saw some increases in January of this year. Do you really think it’s coincedence that they finally gave teachers some money in the same year they were planning to ask for more? Like any corporation, the district’s executive salaries, bonuses and other perks are extremely top heavy and it’s your money that pays for it all. Their pay is public record, so while they bank their six-figure salaries while you count pennies at the grocery store, are they really looking out for the best interest of your family by asking you to pay more?
I’m happy to see teachers in Manatee County finally being paid, but here’s where I may separate myself from a lot of conservatives and liberals alike. I don’t believe a lot of teachers deserve it.
Don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of good educators in Manatee County who focus on … well, education.  I’m all for fair teacher salaries, but I also believe that any teacher who deviates from their primary responsibility of teaching an accurate curriculum without inserting their political bias should walk the plank.
I hear from some parents that some schools, and correct me if I’m wrong or let me know if I’m right, are only showing CNN on television stations inside the schools. I don’t care how educated you think you are, if you don’t have the common sense to know that CNN spreads hate and sensationalizes false stories, then you shouldn’t be in the education business. And if this is true, the district needs to immediately stop contributing to the problem and become part of the solution simply by doing your jobs, staying neutral in the classroom and educating our children.
Despite what school board members and district staff may think, you do not know what is best for our children. You have one job: educate.
Kudos to those of you who do and thank you for what you are doing for our children, and in essence, our society as a whole. You are treasured and an important piece of the puzzle in our children’s growth.
I’ve recently learned that Superintendent Cynthia Saunders sent an email out to district employees pushing them to vote for the tax. I’m no legal expert, but in my opinion she has potentially violated election laws. She used a district email to send out the following message: “Renewal of the millage is critical to the future of our students and schools, and each of us need to be informed and engaged.” No, Ms. Saunders, responsible budgetary practices, getting through a school year without a scandal, creating a work environment that promotes transparency and allows employees to speak out without fear for their jobs when they see something wrong is “critical to the future of our students and schools.” But what does it matter to you? Your ridiculous salary of somewhere around $200,000 a year means you never have to endure that feeling of telling the cashier at the grocery store to put back a few items because you don’t have enough money.

Is it really about the teachers who I know for a fact live within an environment of fear? Is it really about the children and in their best interests?
If it was, you’d work within a budget the same the parents of those very children have to do. And if it really was about the children, you’d stop dipping your greedy hands into the pockets of those who have to support and raise them.

By Mark Young

Mark Young is a U.S. Army veteran and a seasoned journalist of 25 years. His writing and reporting has garnered dozens of state press association and press club awards in Florida, Nebraska and Wyoming for investigative reporting, opinion writing, in-depth reporting and more.

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