As published online via MyRecordJournal.com Friday August 28, 2009 for Sunday print publication in the Record Journal
I was engaged with someone in conversation recently about the cost of education in Wallingford as a reflection of the taxes we pay. Their chief comments were generically that about 60 percent of our entire budget went to pay for public schooling, and he felt that now that his kids were out of school he should pay a smaller portion of taxes.
I asked how long he owned his home in Wallingford, and he said, "about 30 years now."
When I asked how many kids he put through the school system, he said, "three."
His thoughts piqued my curiosity, so I looked into the details.
Here are the facts:
The FY10 budget for the Town of Wallingford is $140,379,869 and $85,057,113 (basically 60 percent) is for the Board of Education’s portion of the budget.
The expected student enrollment for FY10 is 6,573 for Wallingford public schools.
If you simply divide the budget by the students this comes to just about $12,940.38.
If you were from out of town and wanted to pay to send your child to Wallingford Schools you could apply to do so and pay the per pupil expenditure/applied tuition rate of $9,455 for elementary school enrollment, $9,743.00 for middle school, or $10,604 for high school.
According to the City Data website, the estimated median home value in 2007 in Wallingford was $303,694.
Houses equaled 17,306 (16,697 occupied: 12,132 owner-occupied, 4,565 renter-occupied).
For the sake of the remaining discussion, let’s use the smallest rate I can: the applied tuition rate of $9,455 for elementary school enrollment and the estimated median value for a Wallingford home.
Taxes are assessed at 70 percent of the fair market value of the property at the time of valuation which we do every five years.
The current mill rate is set at 23.2.
70 percent of the estimated median cost of a home in Wallingford would be $212,585.80, and when you apply 23.2 mills you get a tax bill of $4,932 almost on the dot. (I am forgoing car taxes in this discussion.)
If we assume that the cost of taxes on homes would rise equally with the rise in the cost of education then we can just use constant dollars.
We can assume 2 children per household for households with children (and my friends would be quick to point out that my family is skewing that number).
Skipping kindergarten and assuming not repeating a grade, a child is in the public school system for 12 years.
12 years times 2 kids times the applied tuition rate of $9,455 for elementary school enrollment (only) equals $226,920 in total education costs.
Divide $226,920 in total education costs by the annual tax bill of $4,932 means that in basically 46 years the cost of educating two children from the same household is covered in taxes collected.
Only that cost – no consideration for any other town services consumed in those 46 years – just educating those two kids.
I realize there are many variables, but for every pro there’s a con.
Businesses are taxed, but they don’t send kids to school; they may consume a larger portion of other town services.
Not everyone has children; those households pay into a pot they don’t use – many people are renters and the tax offset of the landlord does not equal.
I could go on and offset continually – the main point of the column was to bring the costs to the surface of what we actually get as a community for the taxes paid.
(By the way, 17,306 households times the median tax bill of $4,932 equals $85,353,192.)
Remember, the BOE budget this year was $85,057,113.
It is a community’s responsibility to educate its students – in the classroom and beyond.
You can’t put a price on an education. No matter how one gets it, by my math we are paying a bargain rate in taxes for the privilege.