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Message of the Vice Chair of the Dade County School Board Demetrio Perez Jr., in opposition to the proposed budget for the school district, which was approved on first reading the night of July 28, 1997

Mr. Chair, colleagues, Mr. Superintendent, Staff, Ladies and Gentlemen: Nearly 373 days ago, in July of 1996, the 9 persons who today sit on this Board had officially declared our candidacy and begun our respective campaigns, some seeking reelection, and others, in search of their initial election.

Over 25,000 voters supported the movement, which I headed, Dade Educational Challenge '96. Many gave their signatures; others sent me letters and messages of support, and in the end, 72% of the voters of my district elected me.
One of the main points of my platform was to fight tax increases for my constituents. It has always been my goal to get more for less and not less for more.

That is why today, in a responsible manner, I reaffirm my position against this proposed tax increased.

I feel that this is one of the most important decisions, which we are faced with each year and one, which we cannot take lightly.
We need to make the needed adjustments to the budget and reduce the parts of the mileage rate which w control in order to avoid a tax increase.

Why do we need to increase taxes by almost $30 million when we are receiving approximately $90 million more in state funding AND we are also cutting back on existing programs? In a message to Congress in April of 1969, President Richard Nixon said, "we shall never make taxation popular, but we can make taxation fair.”

It is unfair for us to be receiving $90 million more for our budget AND cutting back on existing programs, and then ask the taxpayers to give us more money.

 Another area, which concerns me very much, is that this budget does not include any special measures for school security. As I said in the conference session, which we held on July 9th, which by the way, nearly a month has passed, and nothing has been done.

As I said in the July 9 conference session on school safety and crime, the only way in which I would seek the support of my constituents for a tax increase was if I was convinced that we could develop a plan to ensure the eradication of drugs, crime, and violence from our schools.

This budget does not contemplate any additional efforts to restore safely in our schools and I am very disappointed about this because this is an issue about which our taxpayers are very concerned and which we need to address.

Also, it is absolutely necessary for me, as a new member, to be afforded the opportunity of a budget workshop in the same way that members of the administration are given the chance to meet, with department heads to review and discuss the budget.

 This is quite extensive and it is impossible to know the needs of each department simply by looking at a piece of paper. That is why I suggest that these workshops be done as committee workshops and are included as part of the formal budget process.

There is an old aphorism that says: "The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.” Without any comparison to our situation we can see the high cost of ignorance in other countries through a current Miami Herald series on the topic.

 That is why I want to suggest that the Board members, who are interested, take part in the discussion process in a more substantial way than a 2-hour conference session.

This increased participation will eliminate our ignorance of the process and allow all of us to work together to find creative solutions to the budget.

What items do you believe we can eliminate from the budget without threatening the normal operation of our school system to achieve the goal of not increasing taxes? Why is that the Department of Facilities Operations, has 50 less employees than last year, yet its budget increased by $1,477,242? Why does the Office of Capital Improvement projects have an allocation of $105,886 for communications, which did not exist last year? The nearly $30 million which we need to eliminate in order to avoid a tax increase, represents approximately less than 1% of the total $3.2 billion budget.

Personally, I believe that we can reduce the budget for some departments by as much as 5%, as long as it does not unreasonably affect the student teacher relationship or imply massive layoffs.

We need to adopt a philosophy of efficiency, austerity, and administrative competition with the ultimate goal of doing more with less, instead of doing less with more.

With the permission of the Chair, at the appropriate time I want to propose that we instruct the Superintendent today to offer a budget that will not increase the total mileage rate for our taxpayers, which will mean that the average homeowner will not have to pay an additional $38.38, and that the superintendent return to the final budget hearing on September 10 with this plan.

With this respond the reasons, which motivated my candidacy and I, feel that I am also contributing to set an example by which we can educate children so that we do not punish adults.