I cracked up laughing when I read the title of Dan Smith's column, "Sometimes it's not easy being a mullet."
The article reminded me of a comical incident that transpired several months ago, when I took two old friends for a cruise on the Intracoastal in my flats boat. Whereas it was extremely choppy on the river, I decided to idle in the shallows along the lee side of the spoils islands near Oak Hill.
At some point I scattered a school of mullet, and made the comment, "Check out the mullet!" Suddenly a 9-inche mullet came flying out of the water and slammed into the stomach of my friend, a Boston attorney. Since that time, we've joked about designing mullet-proof vests.
So when I read Dan's recent mullet article, at once I sent it to my friend and this is his e-mail response:
"Thank you for the article. It makes the important point that injury attributable to mullets is not limited to the torso area, but can tragically effect the extremities as well. However, the ranting of a liberal fisherman about the perils of mullet existence is misplaced. Mullets who make the wrong lifestyle choices are responsible for their own demise when they allow themselves to be eaten by flounders. The real victims are innocent boaters like myself who suffer the humiliation and mental anguish of being hit in the stomach by a mullet. I believe the trend toward accepting mullets as victims should be squashed before it gets out of hand. At the rate things are going, liberal fishermen will soon be insisting that marriage can only be between one man or woman and one mullet. I suggest that you write to your congressman on this issue. Also, have you noticed the presidential candidates have been totally silent on the mullet issue? For all we know, they may be accepting campaign donations from the mullet lobby."
James Lee Meadows
School costs too much
The Volusia County School Board is asking taxpayers for more money than they get through property taxes via a property surtax. The value of educating our students can't be overemphasized and we have many fine schools and teachers.
I looked at pages of the Volusia County School Board budget and did a little math. In these days of our $16 trillion deficit, the $766.5 million school budget may not seem like much, but for 64 schools? For 61,630 students? Per student cost with this budget is $12,437 or $12 million per school. Even tuition and fees at our fine University of Florida are $6,170 per student.
I tried to understand why these numbers are so high. Administration costs are $41.1 million. Now maybe those costs could be reduced. I couldn't find how many administrators there are with salaries, and benefits. There was an item for benefits of $80 million. Would the administrators be willing to take, as a good will gesture, a reduction in salary and benefits, which are significantly higher than the average Volusia County taxpayer?
School tax needed
The citizens of Volusia County, those that don't have a direct connection with Volusia County School Board as well as those with students, should support the upcoming One Mill Referendum slated for vote on Nov. 6.
To review, Volusia County has incurred nearly $100 million in funding cuts by the state Legislature and the District Cost Differential (DCD) since 2004. This is the most of any county in the state. The enrollment in Volusia County Schools has decreased over the past five years by approximately 4.6 percent. However with the loss of state funding (DCD); a downturn in property tax values; loss of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding; loss of funding from the Florida Lottery; the school district has incurred a financial loss of 17.3 percent during this period.
In the past few years, more than 1,900 positions have been eliminated with more than 900 of those in the instructional field; there have been salary reductions; energy management initiatives and many other actions to reduce overhead yet still provide a quality education.
The projected budget deficit for 2013-14 is almost $26 million. The citizens of Volusia County approved a .25 Mill tax increase just two years ago to help defray these unprecedented budget cuts. This .25 Mill provided over $6 million for Volusia County Schools. This .25 Mill tax is set to expire as of June 30, 2013. The voters need to approve the 1 mill referendum on Nov. 6, as this will negate the estimated budget deficit.
Each household on average currently pays $1.64 per month for Volusia County schools with the .25 Mill rate. If the citizens of Volusia County vote to approve the 1 Mill Referendum on Nov. 6, on average each household will see a $4.91 net increase per month on an assessed value of $100,000 home.
The citizens of Volusia County need to support the 61,500 students in Volusia County.
More taxes hurt jobs
In the last two years while private sector jobs disappeared, local governments actually added 200 jobs. In addition the number of school district employees making in excess of $50K, $100K and $150K has increased more than 25 percent. Where are the cuts they continue to claim they've made?
We are the second highest taxed county in Florida and will move into first place if this tax passes. Combine this with a per capita income near the bottom and you have a classic, California-type Tax Death Spiral.
This new tax will raise $104 million over four years and more than 52 percent of it will fall directly on business properties that will be forced to raise prices to stay in business. This is a tax on everyone. Superintendent Margaret Smith claims this is all about the children while ignoring the decimation of the jobs market that taxation has caused in Volusia County. The primary reason for lower student enrollment is parents having to move to find work. The primary cause of low property values in Volusia is lack of jobs moving into our area due to high taxation
Our education system is broken and there are no plans to address it other than to throw more money at it and hope it gets better. I attended a strategy session at the VCSD Training Center a few weeks ago and what I witnessed was nothing short of a propaganda campaign to bully parents and taxpayers into coughing up more money because they've run out of the stimulus money that allowed the district to avoid hard cuts for the past two years. Not one word in this meeting about improving standards, reforming the system or the negative impact of this tax.
As the largest employer in the county, the district may exert enough influence to brawl through this tax increase but that won't affect the negative impact on jobs.
Volusia Tax Reform