Lakewood took its case to the governor
HEBRON –Bill Gulick doesn’t give up easily.
When he learned last year that the state legislature’s multi-year phase-out of the tangible personal property tax is primarily responsible for Lakewood’s financial woes, Gulick suggested to Superintendent Jay Gault that they talk to the governor about it. Gault was willing to try anything so he gave Gulick the go ahead.
It took about two months of persistent calls to get a meeting with Dr. John Stanford, the governor’s executive assistance for education policy. Gulick and Gault talked with Stanford for about an hour in February. Gulick invited Stanford to visit Lakewood. That visit was tentatively set for April 10, but was cancelled when it conflicted with some legislative meetings.
Gulick kept pushing for a new date and Stanford visited the district on Sept. 7.
“He gave us three hours,” Gault said. Stanford meet with board members, levy committee members, some teachers and some community representatives.
Stanford outlined HB1 which includes the new evidence based funding plan. However, it won’t be fully implemented until 2020. That schedule will be pushed up if additional resources become available.
“There’s no money to pump into it,” Gault said.
“We are what they consider a bubble district – property wealthy and income poor,” Gault explained. “They knew it would be catastrophic for districts like us.”
The Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) which was intended to replace the tangible personal property tax isn’t coming close to raising as much revenue, Gault said. Nor is any of the CAT tax specifically earmarked for schools.
“The school district and the people in this district are between a rock and a hard place,” Gulick told The Beacon.
“We shouldn’t be relying on local property values to fund school,” Gault added. “It’s wrong.”
“I can’t sit here and do nothing,” he said. “Nothing will result in losing $4.4 million.”
“They (district officials) didn’t sit back and just rely on the people who live in this community,” Gulick said. “We went out to get help to no avail. We hope something positive comes out of all of this.”
“It’s wrong not to give these kids the opportunity for a better life than we have,” Gulick added. “We put our best foot forward to get help and see why. We tried and we didn’t get a check.”
Gault said he would continue to state the district’s case to the legislature. “Something has got to be done.”