ZCS referendum is a stopgap


By Jeff Rieth

In May, we (Zionsville residents) are going to be asked to say “Yes” or “No” to the Zionsville Community Schools proposed referendum. No matter how the votes turn out, some are going to be disappointed. While ZCS Supt. Scott Robison claims it’s (the referendum) just for three years to cover only teachers’ pay, I call foolery. If what he is saying was remotely true, you would have to believe either these teachers are going away, or they will go pro bono after three years. While I can’t imagine those who aregood at their jobs working for free, like some ZCS teachers, I certainly don’t seethese teachersleaving, either.

For some historical perspective on stopgap,let’s look at the federal withholding tax. It, too, began innocently enough as a taxing measure in various forms during the Civil War, evolved and in 1943,became law. Milton Friedman, renowned economist and free-market advocate, was one of the chief architects of the withholding tax (regretfully so) as we know it. His understanding was when it was enacted into law,it was a stopgap measure to smooththe financing curve of the U.S. ramp-entry into World War II. Interestingly enough, we are still reminded of this every time we see our paystubs,even though the event that perpetuated its creation ended more than 66 years ago. Unfortunately, looking at this single-mindedly won’t suffice, and while ZCS may get what they want now,you may regret it later. Regret is a funny thing because, by definition, it’s always in hindsight. The forward-looking component, however,is precedent.By certain measure,precedent can be a dangerous thing.Take our legal system,for example. While many consider it the envy of the world, I would say it’s far from being dictated by law, but more by precedent and sustained by judges not wanting to be labeled “activist” for interpretations outside of what has been done prior.Absent discipline, we become callous to others’ questionable decisions enough over time that, at some future point, we wonder how we got there.

So, what are you saying to Supt. Robison if you vote “Yes?” You’re telling him it’s OK to lie, to be irresponsible with taxpayer funds and to be divisive enough as to leverage ZCS students’ futures to get what he wants … while you pay for it. Set this precedent with Supt. Robison and “chum the water” this May, and we’ll be having this same conversation again three years from now.


Jeff Rieth is a Zionsville resident. You can reach him at jarieth@att.net.



  1. I can’t believe how ill-informed this man is and it’s in an article?? Not even a letter to the editor?

  2. While Mr. Rieth’s historical comments are interesting, they really aren’t pertinent to the overall issue except in some very vague, distant way. The same arguments can be used to support a policy of never increasing funding for the schools despite increasing costs and inflation and just letting the whole system collapse. The recent audit of the school system (included in this very edition) stated that the system was being run appropriately from a fiscal perspective. Also, for the first time ever, the General Fund will have to borrow money from another fund to make ends meet. By law, the General Fund may not have a negative balance. Most of the current problems we face are related to the funding changes instituted by the state government, something over which we have no direct control. But the state did give us one measure to help our school finances when money runs short – the referendum process. Basically the state is saying that if a community cares enough about their schools and education in general, they can vote to do something about their own issues. And, the money stays here. So, the question is: Do we care about education and the quality of our community? To Mr./Ms. Nash, I agree debt is bondage. Perhaps we should provide more money to the school to get it out of debt. Also, our entire government is based on being “selective”. Our taxes, spending, elections are all about being selective. The system was designed that way. By the way, I probably agree with you about teachers’ unions. And, of course we tax our neighbor, just like all of our laws and regulations apply to all of us, whether we like it or not. I don’t have the legal option to simply not pay my federal or state taxes if the legislature makes a decision I don’t like. This is a basic principle of a republic. To Mr. Smith, while the schools certainly aren’t the only reason people move to Zionsville, they are by far the dominant reason. Even if we choose to ignore it, property values are intimately tied to the schools. When it’s time for one of us to sell our home here, we are indeed in direct competition with Carmel, Fishers, Westfield, etc, all of whom have passed referenda to help their schools. The school system is the main reason I and many of my friends and acquaintances moved to Zionsville. Knowing what’s going on now, I would not do it again. Also, I understand your comment about having no children in the system, but I would hope all of us can occasionally act in a way that’s not all about ourselves. I also have no children in the schools. There are things in this world that are more important than my own pocket. By the way, my 89 year old mother, also on her very fixed income, is totally in favor of the referendum. She understands the property value issue.

  3. Katherine E. Russell on

    I too have a child enrolled in ZCS, at least until the end of this year. I am not supporting the referendum because I feel it is wrong to send the message to children (that these people are in charge of educating) that it is ok to spend more than you have, then ask to be bailed out of it at the expense of others- Seems a lot like what everyone complains about the people who abuse welfare do to me. Not to mention that it has not been our experience with ZCS at all that they care all that much about the best interests of the children to begin with.

  4. Kathleen Fon on

    For everyone’s information, the person who signed in as Ron Martin and commented above is NOT the same Ron Martin who is a Certified Public Accountant , corporate CFO, member of ZTRE (Zionsville Taxpayors for Responsible Education) and opposes the May 8th, 2012 school referendum. Kathleen Fon, ZTRE President (Please go to http://www.ztre.org for more information on this topic)

  5. A few thoughts. Regarding the General Fund, if by “renegotiating contracts” we mean decreasing pay and benefits, then we should be prepared for poorer quality teachers. To Ms. Russell, the short fall in finances is related to a change in the way the state now controls taxes and distributions to schools. There is less money available to our system. That is how we are spending more than we have. Our choices consist of raising money to help with the deficit or let the system run short and decline. If we choose the latter, then I’m afraid the primary message we will be sending our children is that we just don’t care about the quality of their education and their academic future. Also, if ZCS had such little interest in the children, it seems quite unlikely that those children would continue to do so well on comparative testing and in college and that our system would have the considerable reputation it has enjoyed up till now. Considering that we have one of the most affluent communities in the state and that most of us have achieved our successes through our education, it stuns me that there is so little concern for the educational system here. Through the referendum process we have a great opportunity to raise money for our own schools, for our community’s children. As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t about me. It’s about something much more important…the kids I see walking the sidewalks, riding their bikes around town, and playing in Lion’s Park. And thank you, Ms. Fon, for the clarification regarding my identity. It is a bit of a coincidence. I have never met the other gentleman. However, I have had some concerns ever since the prior referendum that my friends and acquaintances here in town might have associated me with the anti-education movement. If the “no” vote passes, I sincerely hope that those of us on the other side have been profoundly wrong in our assessments and judgment. Otherwise the consequences may well be quite serious for our community. Seems like a lot to risk for a few hundred dollars for three years.

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