WHY LOCAL PROPERTY TAXES SHOULDN'T FUND SCHOOLS.

Because some people, who don't have kids in public schools and who aren't particularly civic-minded, will inevitably resent paying them and do everything they can to avoid doing so. Case in point: Sun belt retirees living in "adult" communities that not only ban children, but also incorporate outside of existing cities and towns in order to achieve full tax revolt status. Andrew Blechman, author of Leisureville - Adventures in America's Retirement Utopias, has an op-ed in today's Arizona Republic decrying this half-century old trend. "[A] complex and functioning society demands cooperation between the generations," he writes, adding:

After defeating 17 school-bond measures in 12 years, de-annexing from the local school system, and all the energy spent evicting "contraband children," Sun Citians can likely forget relying on the goodwill of their neighbors who often share a reciprocal bounty of distrust, anger and apathy. Shown in this light, Sun City's claim to fame - community service - rings rather hollow.

Life in the Villages is similarly premised: Seniors have taken control of their county's political machinery and have already begun closing parks for young families who live outside the gated community. As one Villager proudly told me without a trace of irony, "In the Villages we spend our tax dollars on ourselves."

If the Villages and Sun City cannot be accountable to their neighbors, then why should their neighbors be accountable to them, even when it comes to funding Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security?

Visiting Florida over the years and seeing gated community after gated community along wide highways, I always wondered why so many senior citizens wanted to isolate themselves from young families. I think this may be a lifestyle with far less appeal to younger generations less steeped in the post-World War II pro-suburban ideology. One can hope that by the time Gen X and Gen Y-ers are retiring, the trend toward leaving vibrant, diverse communities in one's old age in favor of homogeneous pseudo-towns will have run its course.

--Dana Goldstein

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