The following letter to the editors was submitted by John David Kendrick and John Ewing:
Our community faces formidable challenges. The question is not if we need to act, but what course of action we must take. Therefore, we must continuously challenge ourselves to think of innovative ways to equitably fund both our school district and municipal government.
Many of our residents realize the tremendous role that philanthropy presents. If our community makes an investment, like the building of a new school, and uses a tax increase to finance the purchase, the tax increase has a detrimental impact on household cash flows and lowers the values of all property that is impacted by the tax increase. Alternatively, if the community makes the same purchase by seeking contributions from residents, school alumni, corporations, and foundations then the same investment is possible without raising taxes.
Mt. Lebanon has demonstrated that charitable contributions are an excellent funding alternative to tax increases. The Mt Lebanon Public Library and the Municipal Public Safety Building are both excellent examples of how private contributions helped our community to gain valuable assets with only positive impacts on our property values. We have often wondered, "Would the community have resisted the construction of the new high school project if the funding for the project came entirely from private contributions?"
The basic tools are already available to the school board to encourage voluntary contributions from alumni and other folks. We have a Directory of Alumni with contact information, we know where residents and parents live and who in the community is interested in philanthropy.
Yearbooks are available to show alumni interests during their student years. If turf is a need we can solicit those who played sports on the turf on a regular basis; if we need a swimming pool we could solicit past swimmers for donations and so forth for other sports, fine arts and club activities.
In addition we could upgrade our website to show schematic and design drawings of projects that need to be financed. The website could be expanded to include email communication among those who are supporting the school. Many colleges already have this feature so the implementation could be easily duplicated in Mt Lebanon.
After email addresses are available the Internet could be used to communicate with friends of the school. Our Athletic Director could write a weekly email to alumni and friends about the success of our athletic teams and the Superintendent could write a Message to Friends two or three times a year about the plans and successes of our District.
Professional fundraisers could be employed to solicit larger gifts and our Solicitor’s law firm could provide some basic legal advice to donors about planned giving, gifts of stocks, and bequests from estates.
The Board needs to authorize startup funds; fortunately we have the funds balance to accomplish these tasks.
So my thought is, "How can we institutionalize philanthropy to fund our municipal government and our school district?" Again, these are not a new concepts, but ones that have worked very well for US colleges and universities. Unfortunately, we have not thought about institutionalizing this process in our municipal government and our school district.
John David Kendrick and John Ewing
Labels: john david kendrick, john ewing, letter to the editor