Part of the job of a community newspaper is to ensure that taxing districts are fully transparent and using taxpayers money properly. And, if you want to make an omelet you need to break a few eggs. Apparently I broke some eggs.
A few weeks ago during the Floyd County Schools Board of Education meeting, a discussion arose where one board member wanted to take an item about the taxes out of the consent agenda and put it on the discussion agenda.
The board member suggested that because of the increase of property assessment that if the board lowered the tax rate by a few pennies, it could save the taxpayers some money, not a lot but some money. His point was to discuss the options available to the board. There was little discussion and the board did not approve a motion to consider lowering the tax rate, but instead kept the rate the same.
I wrote a column suggesting that the board take another look at the math and see where they may have miscalculated the expected revenue. An increase of property assessment would naturally indicate that there would be an increase in revenue collected if the rate stayed the same. Lowering the tax rate would indicate the district could recognize almost the same amount of operating revenue, which is what the one board member suggested.
I also chastised the board for putting the tax issue in the consent part of the agenda so there would be no discussion. I always believe that, when it comes to taxes, whether they stay the same or have a variable, it should be discussed in the open.
The column was not received well by the board. I was called to the principal’s office (like that’s never happened before) and met with the superintendent and one board member, who looked at me with daggers in their eyes. They were hacked off, but I believed I was right and was not about to back down.
One board member called me and, after a long conversation, admitted that there should be more transparency. I agreed.
In the BOE meeting last week, I was prepared to speak and review the math with the board and explain that if the valuation of the property increases and the tax rate stays the same they will recognize more revenue. I had spread sheets, pie charts and used CPA language so that they would all understand.
Prior to my turn to address the board, Superintendent Shepherd made a clarification on the tax issue. She stated that because of the increase value of property that the board approved several weeks prior; the district would essentially gain about $80,000 more revenue this year. Shepherd went in to say how that extra money would be spent.
Shepard said that raises were given to teachers, which is a good thing because when teachers get raises that extra money stays in the district. There are armed guards needed in every school to better ensure the kids are safe, money went back t other general fund for bond payments and there were a litany of other projects that are happening in the district that needed extra funding.
That transparency and explanation of the use of the extra finds goes a long way. Additionally, the programs that are implemented in the district will better ensure success for the kids of the district.
The principal of Adams Middle School spoke of all the exciting events and programs that they are doing at that school. The attendance is over 94 percent, which is up over last year. They take the middle school kids to colleges and universities for visits, they have an entrepreneur fair, they participate in community projects like visiting nursing homes. They have more band members than expected, they have an archery club, dance club academics club and, of course, athletic teams.
It was interesting to see that the principal mentioned all the other clubs before he mentioned sports. And one thing that I got out of his presentation was that his entire team is committed to getting the students involved in their community. At the middle school age, that’s vital as those kids can see what is happening outside the walls of the school make decisions on their future.
All that takes extra funds and the board recognizes that. They explained that programs like that would need the extra money that they will get in the next year.
The question of consent agenda arose. In my original column, I maintained that they swept the tax issue in the consent part of the agenda, meaning that they apparently discussed the tax issue individually and agreed that they world keep the rate the same, which was not the case as two board members wanted to discuss the rate.
My advice going forward is that any time any public entity that uses tax money to operate, the leaders should always explain the use of tax dollars in the open. Tax issues should never be placed in the consent part of the agenda. It’s important for the taxpayers to know how their money is being spent.
The omelet here is that the district is using tax dollars wisely, which is for growth and education of the students and I’m glad I broke a few eggs. The taxpayers deserve to know that the future leaders of the county are being properly educated with their money.
Thanks for reading the Floyd County Chronicle and Times.