COLUMBIA, Mo 11/12/14 (Op Ed) -- Columbia Public School (CPS) superintendent Peter Stiepleman's public praise for yet another act of highway robbery on local taxpayers reminded me why voters hereabouts are finally doing what many said they would never do:  saying NO to higher taxes.     Voters soundly defeated Boone County's Fairgrounds tax and Columbia's public safety tax. 

Members of the prominent Sapp family of builders and developers, Marvin and Kathleen Sapp made "a huge sacrifice," Stiepleman told the Columbia Missourian, by selling 34 acres they owned to the school district for $2.8 million -- about  $80,000 an acre

Kathleen Sapp "said that she's always been a strong supporter of public education, a big supporter of our schools," Stiepleman added, at a ground-breaking for a new elementary school near the Thornbrook subdivision in south Columbia. 

Stiepleman's comments raise the question:  What "sacrifice"?   This isn't exactly being forced to sell the family farm to make ends meet.   Since 1998, the Sapps, through their Triple S Development Co., have been developing the land around the new school, mainly for the Thornbrook subdivision.   The parcel they sold CPS is among the few remaining. 

Brothers Robert and Marvin Sapp, together with cousin Elvin (a Columbia Town Boss) built the 274-home Thornbrook amidst minimal infrastructure -- most notably, ultra-narrow Scott Blvd. -- taxpayers have since been forced to improve.  Once in the county, the Sapp trio persuaded City Hall to annex the land.  Among the goodies annexation provided:  more lenient development regulations

"After getting approval from county officials, the Thornbrook subdivision, off Scott Boulevard, was voluntarily annexed by the city," the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.  "Boone County Commissioner Karen Miller said city officials dropped some development conditions that county officials wanted, such as widening Scott Boulevard." 

But the Sapps have been "big supporters of this incredible community," Stiepleman gushed.

And about that "big, strong support" for public education and "our schools"?   Despite selling their land for millions to homebuyers and the school district, the Sapps pay Boone County's notoriously low "agricultural" property tax rate, right up until the sale of each new lot or home. 

On an 18.2 acre parcel complete with cul-de-sac and utility hookups for new homes, Robert and Marvin Sapp paid $51.07 in 2011 property tax, up from $50.86 in 2007 -- a 21 cent increase in four years (the land has since been developed). 

Property taxes, as voters are continually reminded during every levy push, primarily support Columbia's public schools. 

By now, you may have noticed a trend:  the Town Bosses, the Chamber of Commerce, local officials, and what passes for "big business" in CoMo eagerly tell the rest of us to pay higher sales taxes, higher property taxes, higher rates and fees. 
At the same time, they relentlessly push tax breaks for themselves (TIF and EEZ most recently), while mobilizing mighty money against fee increases that impact them (e.g. Proposition 2). 

Decades of this galling and hypocritical behavior have made higher taxes a huge turnoff.    Voters aren't just tired of taxation:  they're tired of the unfair, inequitable deals that accompany every tax hike.   

Big supporters of public education and the community?   Go tell that to the armies of unpaid, overtaxed volunteers who staff Columbia's charities, commissions, and political action groups.  Go tell that to the overworked, underpaid teachers and their aides.  Go tell that to John and Jane Q. Public, who have to rouse themselves at 5:30 every morning to get kids off to school and both parents off to work. 

But for heaven's sake, Mr. Superintendent:  don't use those powerful words to describe the multimillionaire developer-farmers who've just sold us $80,000/acre barely-taxed land.  

All that does is put lipstick on a pig in a poke.

 -- Mike Martin