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Somebody remind Robert Fernandes of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s approach to taxes.

The esteemed Supreme Court Justice famously said, "I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization."

Fernandes, however, wants to pick and choose which part of civilized society he wants to fund in his Forks Township, Pa., community.

In this case, the father of three is unhappy about having to financially support public schools. Fernandes' kids are home schooled, so he thinks he shouldn't have to pony up for educating other children whose parents depend on such educational opportunities.

"We don't even use the public system, yet I am being forced to pay all this money into a public school system," Fernandes told "I don't think that's really either fair or just or even ethical. It would be the equivalent if McDonald's were to force vegetarians to pay for their cheeseburgers."

To make sure his message got out, Fernandes had his property tax payment filmed and then posted it to YouTube. He also made sure he was taped offering the shocked tax office staff donuts (not burgers) to underscore his assertion that he wasn't there to make anyone's life more difficult.

Taxes as societal insurance: Guess what, Mr. Fernandes, life is not fair, tax or otherwise. And you are not the first to complain about what you perceive as unfair payments to a government. Get at the end of a very, very long line.

I'm not saying you don't have the right to complain. You definitely do, even if it's in a calculated, over-the-top manner.

But taxes, like insurance policies, are payments for things down the road. We want some of those services for which we pay; some we pay for and hope to never need. Whatever happens, we -- and I'm talking about the collective we of us who live and work side-by-side -- need to pay for now, just in case.

When it comes to education, the bulk of which is paid by real property owners in most states, lots of folks feel like they're getting the short end of the deal.

Retirees who no longer have kids in public schools and folks, like me, who don't have kids also are paying for services that we no longer or never used.

But it's called public education. It does in some way benefit us all. It's part of the social compact, the civilized society in which we all live, where we pay for things that might not directly affect us, but which definitely have an impact on our lives and their quality.

Post-16158-I-like-to-pay-taxes-for-school-FsMjPaying it forward: Or as John Green explains in the photo that's made the rounds on the Internet, he happily pays his public school taxes because he doesn't want to live in country with a bunch of stupid people.

Our collective taxes pay for a lot of services we might not have used a lot ... so far. But I'm happy to have tax-supported police and fire departments even though I hope to never have to take advantage of what I've paid for over the years.

As for public school taxes, I'm counting on my money to ensure that today's kids will turn out to be future doctors, high tech experts, cops, firemen, scientists, business owners, employees of those small and large companies and yes, teachers. 

Quick question, Mr. Fernandes. Did you and/or your wife go to public schools? If so, I'm presuming that since you are making enough money to buy a house and show up with the cash to pay your tax bill that the system worked OK for you.

One more query. Do your kids ever get out of the home for which you feel you are paying too much property tax and play with other youngsters who are going to public school? I'm sure, to paraphrase John Green, you don't want your kids associating with and picking up bad habits from a bunch of stupid children.

So in that regard, you are getting something out of the public school system in the wider socialization of your youngsters.

Safeguarding and guiding our tax investments: All of us should demand that we get a good return on our tax dollars. That money, whether it goes to schools or road repair and construction or public safety or myriad other local, state and national programs, is an investment. 

At least Fernandes paid his taxes, albeit with an ulterior, attention seeking motive.

If you're really upset about your property tax amount, appeal it. It could be wrong.

I also encourage Fernandes and those who feel the same to do more than grouse and showboat.

Vote. Run for the school board or city council. Show up for state and local sessions where taxes are being proposed and discussed.

Be an engaged participant in our civilized society. That's a life lesson we all need to heed.

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My property tax is high. Just shy of $16K. The town budget shows that 2/3 of the revenue is to fund the schools.
I have a neighbor with 3 kids. All three are now adults and were educated in our schools. I have another neighbor who lived here all the same time, but with no kids.
It's an interesting thing to consider whether privatizing schools in certain towns would make sense. But that's not a choice, and when we bought our house we knew that we'd pay high property tax to fund our excellent school system.
With only one child, I don't feel like we took anything out of the pockets of the childless couple, nor do I resent subsidizing the three child family.

I do have sympathy for the older couples for whom the property tax is an issue, and feel that an abatement for those above a certain age is fair.

The guy in your story missed the fact that he caused grief for the people in that office. I had an odd situation where I had a stack of gift cards and saw that I could use them to pay my property tax on line to use them up. The tax department called me, and asked if there was any issue. The cards were $500 face value and there was a $3 fee, so I had used 8 cards and overpaid a quarter's taxes by a few hundred dollars. I apologized and explained why I did this, and asked if I created any issue. The gal said she was calling to let me know I overpaid a bit and I hadn't really caused any extra work.

One can find towns with different demographics and lower property tax.


Amen! Having worked in government for a city councilman, I can tell you that there are tons of people who are great at complaining but 100% unwilling to be part of making change. And plenty of people who can't see past the end of their own nose.

My councilman had 40,000 constituents. It is impossible to give 40,000 people everything they want when they want it. Someone will always lose. Now that I work in public education, I can point out to Mr. Fernandes that there are plenty of citizens who would argue that public schools need MORE money.

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