To Tax Or Not To Tax
That Is The Question
|This is the question facing the Loudon County
commission. So what's pushing the question? The state of the education
facilities in Loudon County.
For many years Loudon County has been wrestling with ageing school buildings and overcrowding and how to best address the problems. Many decisions of previous school boards have been stop gap measures or what some might call band-aid fixes. But at the time that was what board members must have felt was the best path forward. Literally millions of dollars have been spent that weren't necessarily long term fixes. Hind sight is always 20/20. Now the point has come where more patch work is just no longer an option.
The current board of education has adopted a building plan that goes a long way in solving the county's educational problems. The Board has adopted a functional, financially feasible building program. The program includes a new K-12 school in Greenback, a new 6-8 middle school in Loudon and renovations to two other schools. Cost projections range from $30 mil.-$48 mil. depending on who you talk to. Eventually the cost estimates will be honed down to realistic numbers. So how does commission pay for the building plan?
In 2005 the Loudon County Commission passed the largest property tax in the county's history, thirty-two cents. Most of the reason for the tax hike? Education. Yet no new schools have been built. Again in 2008 the Loudon County Commission raised property taxes another eight cents. The reason? Education. Yet still no new buildings. These are the kind of actions that shake the confidence of the tax payers. In 2008 the voters in two separate elections rejected overwhelmingly a half cent sales tax increase for education and a $50 wheel tax for education. Loudon County voters have made it crystal clear they don't want any higher taxes. Now given the current state of the economy, tax increases are even more distasteful and unpopular.
Thus far only two commissioners have made any proposals as to how to pay for the much needed school building plan. 7th district commissioner Don Miller, has suggested that a 24-25 cent property tax increase would be necessary to fund the program. 2nd district commissioner Austin Shaver, has proposed several plans that would fund the building plan with no tax increase.
Will Miller's plan work? Absolutely. A 25 cent property tax would more than pay for the building program. In fact, financially a tax increase is the easiest option that would require no sacrifice or effort on the part of the commission or the board of education and would allow the current spending to continue uninterrupted.
Will Shaver's plan work? Absolutely. But it could require some work and effort on the side of commissioners and board members. They might have to tighten their belts ever so slightly and bring spending under control.
Given the options of, To Tax Or Not To Tax, and given the public's clear opposition to higher taxes and given the fact that elected officials work for and represent the views of the tax payers, it's a mystery why all ten commissioners, the mayor, finance director, bookkeepers, custodians and everybody else isn't putting their heads together to figure out how to accomplish the desired goal without again punishing the tax payers.