Thursday, October 28, 2004
In a daring and unusual move, a board member of Educational Service Unit #6 in east-central Nebraska has taken out a full-page ad blasting the “fiscal irresponsibility’’ of that agency, and urging voters to support candidate Angie Eberspacher on Tuesday to help put things right.
He says he hopes this Paul Revere-like move “has ripples throughout the state’’ and ‘’wakes people up so that we take notice of where our money is being spent in education and how it is being spent.’’
Alan Jacobsen of Denton, Neb., is telling voters this week that the ESU board majority passed up an opportunity to save $77,943 in taxes. The contention is made in a trade publication blanketing the Seward, York and Milford areas, including many voters who were blasted by the tornado earlier this year. ESU #6 serves about 45 school districts in Seward, Fillmore, York and Saline Counties, and in Lancaster County except for the Lincoln Public Schools, according to the agency’s website, www.esu6.org
ESU #6, based in Milford, receives local, state and federal tax dollars. In 1997, Jacobsen says, it financed an addition to its building with a loan paying 5.35 percent interest; the balance is now approximately $307,000.
Jacobsen said in the ad that the ESU’s September financial statement showed a cash balance of $2.7 million. Those cash reserves earn only 1.39 percent interest, he said. So it seemed to make perfectly good sense to use some of the reserves to pay off the $307,000 building loan. But the board majority, led by chairman Clark Kolterman, sided with the ESU administration. Jacobsen voted to pay off the loan and said it could have been paid off years ago.
‘’At a time when rural communities in the region like Hallam, Firth and Wilbur are suffering through economic devastation it is difficult to justify taxing these constituents any more than is necessary,’’ Jacobsen wrote in his ad.
He said Angie Eberspacher is on record saying she would have voted to pay off the loan. She would represent voters in Seward, Centennial and Milford school districts. If she is elected, she will unseat Kolterman and form a fiscally-conservative board majority, Jacobsen said. Think of all the things that could have been bought with that $77,943 the move would have saved, he said, and that’s just one example.
He rejected arguments by the ESU’s board majority and administration that the decision to keep the loan on the books and tax people over and above the spending-lid was necessary to keep receiving federal funds. Jacobsen said, “I can assure you, that dog won’t hunt.’’
The former candidate for Nebraska governor added that he is certain the vast majority of Nebraska taxpayers want fiscal conservatism in all units of government. He pointed to the spending lid on property taxes in Nebraska which was imposed in the 1990s after an outcry by the people for tax relief. The move by the ESU board majority violated the spirit of that spending lid, Jacobsen said, even though it was technically legal because expenditures for capital improvements are exempted from the lid.
‘’We need to work harder at getting our tax dollars to the classroom, and not in some cash reserve pot losing interest,’’ he said. ‘’We need to throw the politicians out of office who think it is OK to tax us, not because they need the money, but because they can.’’
Be sure to visit my feature blog, http://www.DailySusan.blogspot.com, for a series of stories this week about the expanded gambling measures that are on the Nov. 2 ballot in Nebraska, and the impact that would have on our state.
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