A Pennsylvania man was so irritated about the high cost of local school taxes that he decided to pay the $7,143 he owed entirely in $1 bills.
Rob Fernandes, a father of three homeschooled children, paid his school taxes in quite an unusual way, and became a YouTube sensation in the process. Fernandes was frustrated not only by the high cost, but also by the fact he is paying for something he and his family do not even use.
“It would be the equivalent if McDonald’s were to force vegetarians to pay for their cheeseburgers,” Fernandes told a local newspaper.
Fortunately for Forks Township tax collector Anne Bennett-Morse, Rob Fernandes did not choose to pay the huge bill in pennies. The homeowner got a great deal on a short sale property, but is understandably irked by the nearly $10,000 in property taxes he must pay to the local government annually. Most people, he said, don’t even realize the amount of their property taxes because it is rolled in with their mortgage payment.
“I’m hoping people see this video and do the same thing: stop paying in their escrow and mortgage and start paying taxes the way I did,” Fernandes said.
He says on the video, “I wanted to create a visual; they don’t get to actually … see exactly how much taxes is being stolen from them. And I am using the word stolen because I’m not here voluntarily paying this money to anybody. I’m here because I fear for the threat somebody will come and take my house away from me if I don’t pay this.”
Rob Fernandes recorded his Pennsylvania school tax video and posted it on YouTube because he believes the local government was essentially stealing his money. Bennett-Morse stated during the exchange that she was “not going to count every dollar” and did not want to issue a payment receipt until a bank fingered through the $1 bills to make sure every one was there. Fernandes offered to escort her to the bank for the official counting – and said he expected a receipt after all the dollar flipping was done.
“We homeschool our kids, so we don’t ever use the public school system, yet I’m being forced to pay all this money into a public school system that I don’t use, don’t want, don’t need,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s really either fair, just, or even ethical. … I’m a big proponent of education. Education can be provided more efficiently in a free market.”
The Forks Township area bank refused to allow the video camera inside, but Fernandes did ultimately get a “paid in full” receipt for his annual school tax payment. After exiting the bank, the homeschooling proponent stated that his $1 bill exercise was about morality and ethics, not politics. He also stated his hopes that everyone watching the now viral YouTube video would start talking about the school tax issues and a real national conversation would begin on the matter.
“I hear people who have kids in the school system complaining all the time. And they get nowhere,” Fernandes said. “Because there’s no incentive for them to provide better service.”
Forks Supervisors Chairman Erik Chuss told the media that if local residents are concerned about their school taxes, they should attend public meetings, tell their elected officials, or run for office.
Of course, Rob Fernandes was sending his elected officials a message. He just opted to use a little bit of added flare.