By Dennis Minich
For those of us old enough and politically incorrect enough to have watched “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” one of the first scenes shows a statue of the founder of Faber College, Emil Faber. Noted on the statue is his famous philosophy, “Knowledge is good.” I think someone in Kansas City had this virtuous philosophy in mind when they designed campaign brochures asking Harrisonville and Ray-Pec voters to approve admission to the Metropolitan Community College district.
Most of the advertising features great insights like college students are better prepared for jobs and people with jobs don’t commit crime. In other words, “Knowledge is good.” But what has continued to confuse and honestly amaze many of us is how the MCC can promote all of “the good” they want to provide to our students, but intentionally mislead by omission the fact there is a substantial tax increase attached.
Harrisonville patrons, like their neighbors in Ray-Pec, will see wording on the ballot saying: “For the purpose of providing greater affordable access to quality higher education providing in-district tuition rates for residents within the Harrisonville R-9 (Ray-Pec R-2), shall the Harrisonville R-9 (Ray-Pec R-2) School District be attached to the Junior College District of Metropolitan Kansas City, MO effective the 22nd day of April 2021.” What the language does not say is joining the district will include a tax levy of $0.2128 per $100 of assessed valuation. As has been repeatedly pointed out, on a $200,000 home, that’s about $80 per year in additional taxes.
This entire endeavor has the odiferous undertones of “this is for the children.” When the county conned the voters into the justice center a couple of decades ago, many voters were convinced to vote yes because some funds would go to making the schools safer. That was a lie, but proved valuable enough to get voters to approve that giant pig in poke.
A few months ago, MCC officials visited Harrisonville and talked about great things like a local campus. But when nailed down to specifics, the promised campus eroded. But the move proved sufficient to get people talking and hoping about the future of education in Cass County. Voters in Belton fell for the same line a few years ago and while they continue to pay the tax which never ends, the college close to home remains an unattainable dream.
That’s another part of the tax that is so scary. It is a permanent tax. And if the district decides to increase the levy, they have the power to do it. It has been repeatedly pointed out that while the tax could raise several millions of dollars for the MCC, the number of students benefiting from the reduced tuition would be negligible. Most students attending the MCC campuses have qualified through the A+ program so the reduced tuition would mean nothing.
And lest we think we locals are special, keep in mind this is a cash grab, plain and simple. Eight school districts in the metro, including Kearney, Liberty, Smithville, Platte County, Oak Grove and Grain Valley along with Harrisonville and Ray-Pec have been targeted. The MCC wants more money and in their view, the outlying districts are ripe for he picking.
In fairness, the MCC is an important institution in the Kansas City area. Many students get their first two years of college or vo-tech training through the schools and that is a valuable asset. We should support them when we can. And frankly, if they had been honest with the public this might be an entirely different conversation. But trying to deceive the voters with platitudes and omissions is reason enough to say no.
Here’s something to say yes to – please wear a mask and be happy like you are doing it because you want to.