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Farmers Rap 'Unfair' Tax

Farmers Rap 'Unfair' Tax image
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A low-lcey, 80-minute public hearing on the proposed 1970-71 school budget of $25,195,196 was held last night by the Ann Arbor Board of Education. About 40 persons attended the hearing, including a delegation from the Ann Arbor League of Women Voters. Only seven persons spoke. If the proposed budget is approved, án operational millage issue of 3.73 milis will probably be set by the board. Some millage amount is expected to be set next Wednesday. If a 3.73-mill issue is put on the June 8 ballot and approved by the voters, it would mean a tax increase of 11.4 per cent over this year's operational tax bill. Two farmers spoke last night about the "unfair" property tax and the burden it places on many people. Clarence Raynor of Frains Lake Rd. urged the school board to try to find an alternative to the property tax. Raynor also charged that the property tax is hampering the amount of land avaüable for open spaces. Larry Grant, who said he lives on a farm in Scio Township, declared that many farmers today are "faced with shrinking incomes less than ADC (Aid to Dependent Children) mothers." "How come we always have to pay more and more and more? Isn't there a stabilization?" Grant asked. He told of many farmers cutting down their timber to pay their property taxes, leaving nothing but firewood. Told that the lowest paid teacher in Ann Arbor (starting salary with a bachelor' si degree) makes $7,000 this year. Grant asked plaintively: "How would you like to live on $3,000 or $4,000 a year. Is it a question of the needy or the greedy?" David R. Harrell, president of the Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA), again blasted the proposed 3.73 milis as "much too little." He charged that School Supt. W. Scott Westerman Jr. has "grossly underestimated" the amount of money needed in the 1970-71 teachers' contract - now being negotiated - to "keep salaries competitive" with other Michigan districts. The distance of Ann Arbor's teachers' salaries from the top of the scales is "intolerable," according to Harrell. He said Ann Arbor teachers are now 36th among 42 comparably sized Michigan districts in salary and fringe benefits, and in 1969-70, Ann Arbor teachers had the lowest starting salary of the 42 districts, he said. "If you pass this budget, you are going to force the staff into a tug-of-war between the program and their families' welfare - the results will be harmful to program and quality of staff. (A total of) 3.73 milis will not do it," Harrell declared. Mrs. Eunice Hendrix, chairman of the proposed Ann Arbor Envirpnmental Tnter p r e t i v e Center, pleaded that $12,000 for the center be included in the schools' budget. She said thg. State Department of Education sees no "legal prohibition" against the school eontributing money for this purpose, and said an informal legal opinión on the subject is expected from State Attorney General Frank Kelley within three or four weeks. School board attorney Roscoe O. Bonisteel Jr. told the board he thinks such a contribution to the center might be illegal. Samuel H. Barnes, professor of political science at the University of Michigan, said he was "very concerned" about the future of foreign language teaching in the Ann Arbor elementary schools (Fourth-grade French was dropped last year. Next year's budget recommends that fifth-grade French be dropped in 1970-71). Barnes was told the program is being dropped because funds are needed to provide more programs for children with learning and discipline problems, and because there has been "no clear indication" of the success of the elementary program over the past 11 years. Local attorney Jack G. Garris asked about the possibility of utilizing the schools to "greater advantage," Westerman said several possibilites are now being studied including the possibility of an extended school year for some innovative lasis. "We've been living ïuxuriously in the past and we can't afford to do this any longer without reassessing and bettei- utilizing our schools," Garris said. A spokesman for the League of Women Voters said her group will send a letter to _the Board of Education this week concerning the proposed ludget.