Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Soliciting non-taxpayers to raise taxes: the student edition 

We have heard so much about the impact of young voters on the margins Barack Obama earned in winning election last week. Less heard is their impact on down-ticket races. Take for example school levies.
Students at three colleges and universities helped St. Cloud school district prevail in an effort to pass a property tax increase that will provide $5.9 million a year for the schools.

Supporters and volunteers working to pass the vote emphasized the campuses by targeting students who might be enthused to vote in the presidential race.

When the votes were counted, students in five of what are considered college precincts near or at St. Cloud State University, the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph and St. John�s University in Collegeville racked up margins that made the difference.

�They were huge. We looked at the three area colleges associated with the students that really proved to be the margin of victory,� said Barclay Carriar, who was one of three people who led the volunteer effort to pass the vote.

The five precincts included those with polling places at St. Cloud State, City Hall, Southside Boys & Girls Club, Kennedy Community School in St. Joseph and Sexton Commons at St. John�s in Collegeville Township. Those precincts supported question 1 by 3,663 to 1,381 � a 2,282-vote margin. Question 1 was decided by 2,122 votes (24,299 to 22,177).

The margins in the five college precincts were wider than any of the other 66 precincts in the district, even those in neighborhoods of elementary schools.
A table was set up inside our classroom and office building to "provide information" about the levy. I believe one of the school board candidates was at that table. Dave Aeikens, the author of the article above, interviewed someone at that table.

Students do not pay the property tax (certainly not in dorms at SCSU, and any tax built into apartment rents is returned to them by our state's renters property tax rebate system.) Of 600+ graduates of my department over the last fifteen years, less than a hundred still live in St. Cloud. So most of them are voting to raise taxes on someone else. As a school with a large school of education, those students could even have been seen as voting to fund future employment. The number paying zero will grow under an Obama Administration.

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