This past week the West Valley edition of the Arizona Republic carried an angry letter about retirees in Sun City not paying the school tax portion on their county property taxes. The writer was from Surprise, Arizona where the city's budget director nearly went to jail, where the town council knowingly cooked the books to hide unauthorized expenditures, where the city's overoptimism led to the construction of a water treatment plant that was never funded and forced every city taxpayer to be assessed thousands of dollars in additional water fees to pay for the city's mistake.
Surprise is the city that built state of the art spring training baseball stadiums and filled acres of city land with new schools, multiple sports fields with 21st century lighting. They spent millions on solar panels over the city hall's parking lots to make sure city bureaucrats could have their cars cool and comfortable when they head home in mid-afternoon. And Surprise has seen cause to build dozens of new schools to accommodate the children of illegal aliens.
All of this financial foolishness led to a financial collapse and lowering the city's credit rating, thus raising the costs of doing business in Surprise.
So this angry lady from Surprise was bitching about old people in Sun City not paying a school tax. A few things to keep in mind. Yes, we do pay property taxes, lots of taxes...and though our homes are worth far less than the new homes in Surprise we pay a one percent valuation just like Surprise residents do. Also keep in mind that the average age of Sun City residents is 70 years old. More than half live off a Social Security check. Anyone care to google the annual Social Security pension increases in recent years? It is far less than the cost of living increases and have put a serious squeeze on old people to pay their mortgage, buy food, pay for home upkeep and utilities, and, hopefully, still have enough left to pay for their medicines.
The letter writer might also keep in mind that these 70 year olds paid property taxes, including school taxes, for more than half a century. With no more children to educate, and no schools in their area, are old age retirees expected to keep forking out money right to the grave?
At about the same time this letter appeared in the paper my 76 year old neighbor had her 50 year old sewer pipe go out on her. Her toilets and shower and sinks backed up on her and she was frozen in fear about what to do. This is a common problem in our neighborhood...I've seen dozens of open trenches appear right around my own neighborhood as age is catching up on our old homes.
So the plumbing folks came out to my neighbor's house and gave her an estimate; $4,800 dollars to trench and run a new sewer line out to the city hookup. Problem is she lives on a fixed income, a pension that barely gets her through the month. Luckily, one of her kids called to check on her and she cried on the phone as she related what had happened. The kids all got together and scraped up the dough to make the repair. And everything is fine for now...until a monsoon storm takes off half of her roof shingles...or the old water line springs a leak.
But, by all means, let's revel in the bitching of a Surprise, Arizona lady that all these greedy and selfish Sun City geezers aren't paying for her kid's school costs.
Post Script: The angry Surprise Lady does not appreciate that 500 Sun City volunteers work for free as the County Sheriff's "posse", doing home checks, writing speeding tickets, responding to traffic accidents, and fighting crime. County audits say this posse saves the county more than $2 million dollars every year in law enforcement costs. And, unlike the bitching Surprise lady, more than two hundred of these old geezers rise each morning, don a neon green vest, and go out and mow common areas, trim trees and bushes and pick up and bag the trash that is thrown into our streets by folks fifty years younger. Nor does the Surprise lady know that more than one thousand Sun City retirees file out into the community each day and serve as teacher's aides, hospital volunteers, serving food in homeless shelters and stocking in community food banks. I would love to know what "Ms Surprise" does for her community.