Today's Letters: Don't water down graduation

Published April 29, 2007

On Friday, May 25, thousands of students and their loved ones will hear the following words:

"With the authority vested in me by the Department of Education, State of Florida and the District School Board of Pasco County, I hereby certify that all of the young people seated before you tonight have met all of the graduation requirements set forth by the Department of Education, State of Florida and the District School Board of Pasco County."

The problem with this statement is it could very well be inaccurate!

The School Board has scheduled the final reading of a proposed change to the current policy involving participation requirements for graduation ceremonies. The meeting is at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. This change, if passed, will allow students who have not met all the graduation standards the privilege to participate in all graduation ceremonies. The School Board is planning to allow students who have not met all these requirements to walk across that stage in the same cap and gown and be granted all the pomp and circumstance earned by the other students.

The standards presently in place were put there by our legislators. The School Board does not set graduation requirements, but does set policy on who can participate in the graduation ceremony.

I have always assumed, as I believe most folks have, that when students walk across the graduation stage, shaking hands with dignitaries and then turning their tassels, they have ended a journey started almost 13 years before, with the accomplishment of having earned their high school diploma. More importantly, they have overcome every obstacle that our education system could put before them, and have succeeded through perseverance and hard work! To say they have earned the right to receive all the accolades afforded them for this achievement is an understatement at best.

Now, our School Board is proposing to discredit this achievement. By doing so, they are sending a message to every student and every person who has been instrumental in their success that all that hard work was in vain because you could have done less to get here tonight. What message does this send to the 95 percent or more who did what they were asked?

Sending the message that students do not have to be accountable for the standards set before them is the worst form of teaching possible!

The School Advisory Council of Pasco High School asks that everyone contact his or her school board member and express his or her opinion on this matter. It is our position that only students who meet the standards set forth by the state should be awarded the right to participate in the graduation ceremony.

Dale E. Maggard, Chairman, Pasco High School Advisory Council, Dade City


Impact fees affect all homeowners

Our five Pasco County commissioners have done it again - they've raised impact fees. As I understand it, the fees for a single-family home are now more than $20, 000, effective Oct. 1, 2007. They say they are raising impact fees to keep from raising property taxes. Well, as I see it, raising impact fees raises property taxes.

A builder of a home includes the impact fees in the contract price of the home. At the closing, the impact fees cause an increase in documentary stamps to the state, and higher title insurance premiums. The documentary stamps on $20, 000 are $140.

The sale is recorded and sent to the property appraiser. Property Appraiser Mike Wells sets the price to tax, including the impact fees. The combined tax rate for the county, school board and other agencies is around 15 mills. Fifteen mills on $20, 000 impact fees amounts to $300, so every year you pay $300 in additional property tax on the impact fees. When several homes in an area sell, they adjust the value of all homes in the area, so now every non-homesteaded property owner is paying $300 on this $20, 000 impact fee.

Further, most new home buyers finance their homes. The impact fees are included in the amount financed, and $20, 000 at 6 percent interest for 30 years amounts to $120 per month. Over 30 years, this amounts to $43, 200. In addition, the state receives tangible tax and documentary stamps on a mortgage; on the $20, 000, this would be $110. As you can see, a new home buyer pays a lot more than just $20, 000 impact fees.

I don't understand why someone with more money than I have doesn't sue the government to declare impact fees unconstitutional. Why can five commissioners set rules that cost homeowners all this expense and the homeowners have no input?

Eugene Smith, Dade City


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