Higher Taxes Is Not The Answer

Isn't it ironic? The state just lowered the sales tax by a half cent and county officials are asking us to raise sales tax a half cent. Of course in the name of education. It's for the children. It never fails when officials want to raise taxes, it's always for the children. Apparently we are suppose to hand over our hard earned money just because someone says, "It's for the children." Well I'm sorry, it's not for the children.

In the last five years, the Loudon County Board of Education spending has increased by ten million dollars. Again, that's $10,000,000.00. However the county system enrollment has increased by less than 200 in the same time period. How is it possible to justify a two million dollar per year increase?

Last year the Loudon County Board Of Education spent nearly $9,000.00 on each of it's nearly 5000 students. This includes more than 450 children who do not live in Loudon County and whose parents do not pay Loudon County taxes. That's $4,000,000.00 to educate non resident children.

A little more than a year ago, the Loudon County Board Of Education paid 2.2 million dollars, nearly twice the asking price, for a parcel of land that scarcely lends it's self for a school building. And on and on and on.

The state of Tennessee mandates the teacher student ratio in all schools. This is to assure that class sizes are not so large that children fail to receive adequate instructional time.

The teacher student ratio for kindergarten thru third grade is 20-25 to 1.
The teacher student ratio for fourth thru sixth grade is 25-30 to 1.
The teacher student ratio for seventh thru twelfth is 30-35 to 1.

Using the lowest mandated ratios above, a close look at the nine schools in the Loudon County system may reveal some surprising statistics.

Eaton Elementary enrollment in grades K-4 would require a maximum of 35 teachers. There are currently 54 teachers on staff.
Fort Loudon Middle School enrollment, grades 6-8 would require a maximum of 17 teachers. There are currently 26 teachers on staff.
Greenback School enrollment in K-12 would require a maximum of 28 teachers. There are currently 53 teachers on staff.
Highland Park Elementary enrollment in K-4 would require a maximum of 21 teachers. There are currently 29 teachers on staff.
Loudon Elementary enrollment in K-5 would require a maximum of 24 teachers. There are currently 40 teachers on staff.
Loudon High School enrollment in 9-12 would require a maximum of 24 teachers. There are currently 51 teachers on staff.
North Middle School enrollment in 5-8 would require a maximum of 33 teachers. There are currently 51 teachers on staff.
Philadelphia School enrollment in K-8 would require a maximum of 23 teachers. There are currently 37 teachers on staff.
Steekee Elementary enrollment in K-5 would require a maximum of 12 teachers. There are currently 23 teachers on staff.
Central Office maintains 9 teachers.

Using the lowest state required ratios it would appear that the nine schools are far over staffed by a total of 182 teachers. Given the average Loudon County teacher pay is around $40,000.00, this would be an annual cost overage of $7,280,000.00. This does not include the cost of benefits for the extra teachers which would be another million dollars per year. Certainly there are variables within these numbers that could result in the need for more than the state required number of teachers but it would be hard to imagine the need for 182 extra.

On top of that, there are:

113 Paraprofessionals (Teacher's Aids) $1,682,079.00
16 Secretaries $355,264.00
9 Nurses $176,360.00
9 Principals $549,835.00
7 Family Liaisons $173,065.00
4 Supervisors $277,109.00
4 Psychologists $180,440.00
1 Business Manager $43,841
1 Director $93,500.00

Anyone who has ever been in business can tell you that the cost of buildings, materials and supplies is a drop in the bucket compared to cost of employees. Employee cost can quickly get out of control if not managed properly. This seems to be what has happened in the Loudon County School System.

All the debate of late has been the alleged need for additional buildings and expansions to existing buildings and where to find the money to pay for the additions. Estimates range from 90 to 144 million dollars. Each million dollars borrowed by the county costs the county approximately $51,000.00 per year. The overages in teachers alone would more than pay for a loan of 100 million dollars.

Every one wishes it were possible to provide the newest, nicest, fanciest schools for the county with the lowest teacher to student ratio possible. Unfortunately and realistically, the tax payers just can't afford that. While the growth of the school system is minimal at best, the BOE never cuts back or reduces costs but consistently spends more and more on staff and other questionable expenditures.

More taxes will not solve the Loudon County Board Of Education's money problems any more than more food would solve the fat man's problem. The BOE must learn to curb their incredible money appetite.

You see, it's not about the children. It's about money for the grown ups who are minding the children. 

I've said it many times before, the only way you stop government from spending money is to stop giving them money