The Feb. 25 front page had a good picture of a school bus and remarks from school officials warning of increased taxes because of aging school buses and increased fuel costs (“Schools absorb extra costs as transportation aid stalls”). With my own fuel costs and many other products costing more because of the increased fuel costs, I don’t think I can afford more taxes. I suggest the superintendents and other school officials consider two ways to solve their funding problems.
First, all public schools in Ohio should form a coalition to decrease spending by replacing school buses (as scheduled) with natural gas-operating buses. According to the Natural Gas Vehicles for America, taxpayers would save up to $2 per the equivalent of one gallon of gas, and even more when replacing diesel buses.
One superintendent reported bus fuel costs at $1,157,226 and the cost of replacing a bus at about $96,000. The saving in using natural gas would pay for six new buses each year.
Some of our western states have already formed such coalitions. In addition, Pennsylvania is far ahead of Ohio in using natural gas vehicles. Many trucks using our turnpike operate on natural gas.
With proven reserves of domestic natural gas soaring, we would not only reduce spending but also help our country produce jobs, clean the environment and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
The local gas company can provide information about local filling systems for fleets of natural gas vehicles. The schools might also encourage their teachers and other employees to reduce personal expenses by having their next vehicle use natural gas. They could use the schools’ local filling system. At least two organizations have home fueling systems available.
Second, if the funding problems go beyond increased transportation costs, change the schools’ pension program from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. If the current plan is fully funded, no one would lose any vested benefits in the change. This would not only reduce expenses but also eliminate the uncertainty of fund assets, which is a major problem with many public pension plans.
When the federal government passed legislation to protect private pension funds, about 75 percent were changed to defined contribution plans. This allowed each employee the choice of investing plan funds.
The argument over risk is very controversial. Today, when the market goes up, are the taxpayers informed to decrease their payment to the school? Is the school employee’s defined pension increased? The answer to both questions is probably “no.” The plan manager enjoys the gain. The taxpayer and the employee have no say in how this extra money is used.
Donald J. Leahy
Taxing the poor and seniors
Gov. Kasich, in the tradition of rigidly right-wing ideologues, has decided to increase revenue by pulverizing the poor and savaging seniors.
Attending a play or concert, going downtown to see a ball game, attending a high school musical to watch a grandchild perform and enjoying the broad range of programs available on cable television are just a few of the simple pleasures that are a treat for low-income families and seniors living on fixed incomes.
Cutting off access to these activities, along with others included on a list of services that would be taxable under the governor’s budget proposal, would have a deleterious effect on the lives of millions of Ohio residents.
Attempting to balance the state budget on the backs of the people least able to pay is unfair and demonstrates a lack of compassion.
We urge your readers to contact the governor and tell him to maintain the state’s income tax rates at their current levels and to eliminate any change in the structure of the state sales tax.
Bob and Carol Belfance
Missing the truth about the sequester
Sunday’s paper had an above-the-fold piece headlined “How do you find the truth?” Below the fold, in a stunning display of irony, was an article about the sequester (“Automatic budget cuts won’t affect everyone”).
It was ironic because the truth was nearly impossible to find in the latter.
The article featured a timeline entitled (“Where did ‘the sequester’ come from?”). The reader was led to believe that it came from Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
Yet nowhere in the rest of the article did it even come close to saying that the sequester really came from the White House.
Your journalistic brother in arms, Bob Woodward, who is certainly not a conservative, wrote a piece in the Washington Post on Feb. 22 laying out the fact that the sequester was hatched by senior White House advisers Jack Lew and Rob Nabors and approved by President Obama on July 27, 2011.
Further, on Nov. 21, 2011, President Obama stood at the White House podium and said: “Already, some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts. My message to them is a simple ‘no.’ I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be not easy off ramps on this one.”
I am not sure what is more shameful, a two-faced president who is now fear-mongering low-information voters on the very sequester he approved and later vowed to protect, or the fall of the once great Akron Beacon Journal.
Kieran J. O’Rourke
Going dark to save planet
On March 23, at 8:30 p.m., thousands of cities around the world will go dark for one hour during Earth Hour, the World Wild Life’s annual campaign to raise awareness of the environmental devastation the planet faces.
As an Akronite, I am turning out my lights and I urge others in Akron to take part by:
1. Turning off your lights and machinery.
2. Turning off nonessential lights in and around government buildings.
3. Mentioning the event and encouraging landmarks and businesses in Akron to join in.
Our towns and cities already face the costs of extreme weather driven by climate change, resulting in power outages, flooded roadways, shuttered businesses and damaged homes.
The federal government is abdicating its role by refusing to ask corporations and wealthy individuals who pay for political campaigns to pay necessary taxes.
When disaster hits, we will be increasingly dependent on local services. Let’s start thinking ahead in more ways than this, but it would be a symbolic first step.
Turn off your lights on March 23 for an hour. Let’s stand together for a beautiful and sacred planet.
Liberal dreams financial nightmares
Liberals are admittedly sincere, with very good intentions. But we need to examine the practical results of programs originating with good intentions.
A recent liberal-initiated policy was to loosen lending practices so that almost everyone could own a home. This was a worthy objective. The objective seemed to be working fine, with even conservatives participating, until housing prices peaked and started down. The housing industry collapsed.
Union-negotiated wages and retirement benefits greatly benefited those in private industry and government. When the recession began, these benefits were a factor in the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler, and severely squeezed local and state governments.
We are now facing a situation more serious than that which caused the recession. Government workers have negotiated benefits that are beyond our ability to pay in the future.
At the same time, our government has spent freely in an attempt to revive the economy, using socialistic policies that have demonstrably failed in other countries.
We have accumulated a national debt which is beyond our ability to ever repay. When interest rates increase, the financial burden to pay the interest will be extreme.
Liberals understandably want to maintain our generous lifestyle, but, amazingly, appear to be unworried about our enormous debt and huge annual deficits. Did they fail to learn arithmetic in grade school? They strenuously resist efforts to reduce spending (including entitlements), which is necessary to correct the problem. Some are desperately in need of entitlement benefits, and liberals should be commended for their concern for those in need.
But the problem is that we simply do not have enough wealth to spend on entitlements at our present rate.
As individuals, we know that we cannot continue to spend beyond our means. Do we expect that we can continue these reckless policies without disastrous results?
I agree with liberals that we want the best for everyone, but even our wealthy nation has limitations as to what is financially possible. To remain a nation to which immigrants want to enter, we need to limit government restraints and limit taxation so that ambitious and capable people can improve their lives.