Invest in Portland’s schools? For those on Social Security, who pay property taxes, how deep is the pocket our elected officials are about the pick?

The average Social Security check is already below the poverty level and also below the minimum wage. While we talk about the need for rent control, we must add property tax control to that list. In each year of the recession, we had a property tax increase – and three years with no Social Security cost-of-living adjustment.

If you look at the pictures of the degradation of our schools, it becomes clear that the buildings lack adequate annual maintenance, and one wonders why that is.

In one year of surplus, Mike Wilson, then chief financial officer of the Portland Public Schools, spent every penny of it and nothing was spent on infrastructure, yet Emmanuel Caulk, then the superintendent in charge of this CFO, was later offered a raise. When given added education aid from Augusta, our last mayor, Michael Brennan, claimed it was not needed and diverted it to the asylum seekers’ General Assistance account. These funds, if properly used, would have decreased the amount needed for a bond issue.

Do we not have trade schools in Portland? Why couldn’t we train students and use their talents in our schools and public buildings to enhance their learning skills? Another thought is to base the school tax on income.

Imagine my surprise when a property listed for sale for almost $2 million had a tax rate of $8.10 per $1,000 assessed value, while I have to pay $20 per $1,000 for my property, assessed at $200,000. That is why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in Portland. It’s time to think outside the box and come up with a tax structure that allows our retirees to stay in their homes.

Art Sears

Portland