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Published May 10. 2011 05:00PM

In many Pa. communities, school board meetings are becoming more and more heated.

That's because school board members have to decide on increasing already high tax rates or making painful cuts. The combination of state and federal education allocations with general increases in district operating costs places a lot of burden on school board members.

School district real estate taxes are among the highest taxes property owners pay, in many cases amounting to thousands of dollars a year for a property owner.

While obviously we elect school board members to represent us taxpayers, there are situations which diminish such measures.

Sometimes there is no opposition in school board races so we really don't have an election choice.

When there is a race, we should try to find out what we can about the candidates and where they stand. But board members are elected for multi-year terms and positions can change.

Finally, even though we might elect a board member for a specific agenda, the existing majority overwhelms those intentions.

For tax increases or major budget changes, perhaps state lawmakers should make changes so that the taxpayer has more of a say in major budget matters. Why not let voters choose whether or not they want tax increases to continue funding items proposed to be cut?

It is an awful lot to ask of school board members to make decisions that affects all of us; specifically raising taxes or making painful cuts. And especially in small towns, such decisions can have detrimental effects on personal and business status of the board members.

School board members don't get paid. They serve because they feel an obligation to give service to their respective community. But any school board member will tell you, serving is a thankless task.

The result often is public hostility, boycotting businesses, name-calling, and even threats.

Certainly there's an element of risk when taking on the duty of becoming a public servant. By having voters cast ballots on such things as tax increases, school board members wouldn't be losing their authority on important matters. They would be better guided by the electors on their decisions.

Often a mere small faction bands together and belittles school board members for specific decisions. And too often the proverbial squeaky wheel gets the oil while the rest of the problems are ignored.

It makes far more sense to let the general population decide the future of such things as sports funding and tax increases.

By Ron Gower

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