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already been shown that the taxation burden for buildings does not come necessarily during the year the money is expended upon them, but it is sure to come, all the same. An expenditure included in one year's total, whether it belongs there or not, does not appear again in the totals for other years. If, therefore, the cost as given in the third column is unduly swollen in one year, it is correspondingly reduced
in other years.
Table showing the Cost of the Public Schools for Each Child of
the Average Membership for Ten Years.
Relations of the School Tax to the General Tax. — It appears from the foregoing table that the cost of educating a child has shown during the past ten years an upward trend. Does this upward movement involve an increasing tax rate for the State, or an expenditure for schools of an increasing proportion of what is raised; or is it something that the increasing wealth of the State permits without affecting either the tax rate in general or the proportion of the general tax set aside for schools? Table XX. has been prepared to answer, at least in part, such questions.
Table showing the Relations of the School Tax to the Municipal Tax for Ten Years.
DOLLARS ON A THOUSAND.
RATIO TO ENTIRE MUNICIPAL TAX OF
ENTIRE SCHOOL TAX.
ENTIRE SCHOOL TAX.
Total Valuation of
Total Municipal Tax
for all Purposes.
School Tax as per Graduated
School Tax as per Graduated
* Second series, page cxiii, Appendix.
Comments on Table XX. – A comparison of the total municipal tax of the State for all purposes with the total valuation of the State indicates an average rate of taxation for the State of $15.84 on each thousand dollars worth of property, increase from the preceding year of 45 cents.
The increase in the expenditures for schools both as per graduated tables and as per entire tax exclusive of buildings was 10 cents on a thousand dollars, or 22 per cent. of the total increase of 45 cents. If buildings are included, there was a decrease in school expenditures of 1 cent on a thousand dollars. It should be noted that the proportion of the municipal tax expended on schools is about the same as a year ago, or, if buildings are included, a little less.
The State as a whole devotes about $23 on each hundred dollars of what it raises by taxation (more accurately, $22.90) to the current expenses of the schools (excluding repairs, alterations and new construction of buildings). This percentage for the wealthier places would yield much more than they now expend on their schools. It would give Boston, for example, about $900,000 more than she now uses for current expenses, Brookline about $60,000 more, and so on. For the poorer places, the same percentage would yield much less than they now expend.
The State as a whole devotes 36 cents on each hundred dollars of its valuation (more accurately, $3.63 on each thousand dollars) to current school expenses. This percentage of valuation, like the percentage of the amount raised by taxation, would yield for the wealthier places sums largely in excess of their present current expenditures. It would give Boston, for example, over $1,250,000 in excess, Brookline over $100,000, and other places of relatively large valuations corresponding amounts. For places of relatively low valuations the same percentage would yield inadequate sums, and put upon them the stigma of neglecting their schools. In the case of Boston the Legislature of 1898 (see chapter 400, Acts of 1898) has given the school committee authority to expend for current expenses (including repairs and alterations of school buildings, but not new construction), for the financial year of 1900 and each financial year thereafter, a sum not exceeding $2.90 on each thousand dollars of her valuation.
There are serious reasons why wealthy places should not tax themselves up to the State average, on the one hand, and why poor places should not tax themselves down to it, on the other, for local school purposes.
The one course would mean a reckless use of public money; the other, sacrifice of the schools themselves. Hence the painfully striking inequalities in school maintenance and in school privileges, — wealth taxing itself lightly for the best the market affords and poverty taxing itself heavily for such humble things as it can get. Inasmuch as the State puts the same school obligations upon all, conformity to which makes for the welfare of all, it would seem to stand to reason that inequalities of burden caused by the joint action of all for the common welfare should be reduced somewhat by the joint effort of all. Massachusetts recognizes this principle to a slight extent, but not so fully as the gravity of the situation demands.
The Increase in the School Tax not so great as it seems. Attention was called in the sixty-second report, pages 140, 141, to the fact that until recently certain school expenditures of a miscellaneous character scarcely appeared at all in the returns of the school committees. For the last four years these expenditures have been reported under the head of 6 sundries,” and so have been included in the totals representing the cost of the schools. These sundries for the past four years have amounted to $1,213,112.29. The omission of most of these sundries from the returns of previous years makes the cost of the schools as retạrned for those years less than it really was. Table XX. shows, for example, an average of $3.05 per thousand dollars expended for current school expenses during the first six years there recorded, and an average of $3.47 for the last four years, the former period omitting sundries such as are included in the latter, and the omission accounting for nearly all the increase of the last four years over the preceding six. Thus the sundries for 1898–99 amounted to 53 cents on each thousand dollars of valuation. The omission of these sundries, therefore, would drop the amount for current school expenses for 1898–99 from $3.63 per thousand dollars to $3.10 per thousand. In like manner, the omission of sundries from the current school expenses of the
last four years so as to make the comparison of these years with the first six more nearly fair would drop the amount for such expenses from $3.47 per thousand dollars to $2.97 per thousand, which is 8 cents per thousand dollars less than the average for the first six years. In other words, had sundries” been as successfully gathered during the first part of the decade as during the last part, Table XX. would have shown no increase whatever in the ratio of the school tax to the general municipal tax, but a slight reduction rather.
The total tax for all municipal purposes has risen from $14.58 in 1889-90 to $15.84 in 1898-99,- an increase of 1.26 cents. The total tax for schools, buildings excluded, has increased during the same time from $3.02 to $3.63, or 61 cents in all, but, for reasons just given, the increase is more apparent than real. The total tax for schools, buildings included, has risen from $3.92 in ten years to $4.93, or $1.01 in all; but, it needs to be repeated, some of this increase of $1.01 is not real and some of it does not belong to the years to which it has been assigned.
To show the fluctuations in that part of the school expenditures occasioned by the repair and construction of school buildings, it may be said that building expenditures increased the school expenses in 1889–90 by 90 cents of the total municipal tax; in 1890–91 by 80 cents; in 1891-92 by $1.18; in 1892-93 by 97 cents; in 1893-94 by 89 cents; in 1894–95 by $1.01; in 1895–96 by $1.25 ; in 1896–97 by $1.25; in 1897–98 by $1.41, and 1898–99 by $1.30. The last four years, as clearly shown by these figures, have been years of extraordinary activity in building schoolhouses.