Don't Do It
|Have you ever wondered why people don't trust elected officials? Let
me give you a good example.
Just less than a year ago, a majority of Loudon County commissioners passed a twenty cent property tax increase. The entire increase was designated exclusively to the long awaited school building program. The tax increase came after the school board had debated for years on an appropriate long range building plan and finally adopted a plan that would build two new schools and provide for a major renovation for another school. The plan also calls for a new middle school in the north end of the county at the completion of the Phase I building program.
A little less than a year ago, a majority of the commissioners passed a twenty cent property tax increase vowing each in their statements that they supported the tax increase for the school building program to alleviate the deplorable conditions and overcrowding and endless repairs and associated costs that were draining the school resources. Each of the commissioners who supported the tax increase stated clearly their support for the children. It's always for the children.
At Wednesday's commission budget committee meeting, the idea of raiding the school's building fund was brought to the table. The position is now that the twenty cent property tax increase passed by a majority of commissioners less than a year ago was actually more than will likely be needed to fund the $43,000,000.00 building program. The proposal was to take eight cents of the twenty cent property tax increase from the school building fund and move that eight cents into the county's general operating fund. Voting to take the school building fund money were Commissioners Don Miller, Bob Franke and County Mayor Estelle Herron, who chairs the budget committee. Voting not to take the school building fund money were commissioners Austin Shaver and Sharon Yarbrough. Ultimately, the full commission will take up the question.
The logic behind the push to move the school building fund money to the county general fund is that within two or three years, the county general fund could be in financial trouble and that since there appears to be a surplus in the building fund, now would be a good time to transfer the money. Commissioner Shaver suggested that if in fact the twenty cent property tax increase passed less than a year ago was more than was needed to fund the building program then the property tax should be reduced accordingly. Shaver's idea was not accepted.
Property tax increases are never popular and are always politically dangerous. Commissioners who went on the record less than a year ago to pass a very unpopular property tax increase in the midst of a very poor economy showed great courage. To have continued to poured more and more money into the old, overcrowded facilities was just not feasible. When those commissioners told the people they were raising their property taxes for schools, most thought they meant what they said.
It is likely in the next few years, commissioners may very well find themselves in the position were more money will be needed to fund the county general operations such as law enforcement, highway maintenance and so on. And as Commissioner Shaver stated to the budget committee, when that time comes, commissioners can debate the merits of those needs and take up the question for higher taxes for those needs.
Now the idea of coming back, less than a year later, to take the money they said was for the schools and using it for any other purpose is just wrong and does nothing but add to the distrust and distain so many hold for elected officials.