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Letter to the editor: Sales tax increase needed in Wilson

Letter to the Editor • Jul 26, 2014 at 7:00 PM

To the Editor:

Education holds an important position in the maintenance and growth of Wilson County’s economic future. Business leaders and investors considering bringing their companies to our area always ask about the local support for education and the success of the schools in our cities and in the county.

Wilson County and Lebanon Special District Schools have maintained a high level of success for many years. Through the combined efforts of the School Boards, the help of the County Commission, and the continued support of Wilson County’s citizens, our children are being provided with facilities that are well designed and sources of pride in their respective communities. The dedicated administrators and teachers in both school districts are proving year after year that our children are being taught to be thinkers and future leaders.

However, as each year passes, and funding from federal and state sources dwindles, Wilson County Schools and Lebanon Special District Schools depend more and more upon local sources for necessary funding of expenses that increase every year, just as personal and family expenses increase.

Each year budgets have to be stretched to the max to accommodate the steady yearly increase of 500 to 600 new students. Added to the new student influx are the increased cost of textbooks (many of which are as expensive as some college texts); technology needs for hardware, software, and Infrastructure in every building; expanded energy costs; increased transportation needs with accompanying rising fuel rates; and the rising costs for needed maintenance and repairs of buildings and equipment.

In previous years, these increased demands have been covered by dipping into the school budget reserves, but, as is true of continued withdrawals from any savings account, those reserves are disappearing rapidly. Growing student populations, rising operational and maintenance costs, and ever increasing needs for facilities, equipment, and well-trained personnel will continue to draw more and more heavily from the limited resources available.

On the Aug. 7 ballot, the citizens of Wilson County have an opportunity to support a slight sales tax increase which will provide a more equitable sharing of taxes used for funding schools.

Wilson County is one of the fastest growing counties in our state. A strong sales tax that grows with the population and inflation rate is fundamental to funding public education in our county. Currently the local portion of the schools’ budget is funded primarily through property tax and sales tax revenues. As increased needs arise, and after budgets are carefully reviewed for cost cuts and savings, it becomes necessary to find additional sources of revenue to maintain the level of service needed by the students of our county.

Raising property taxes can sometimes place an undue burden on landowners who can ill afford Increased taxation of their homes and land. As property taxes increase, rental rates are inflated and property improvements increase assessments. The backbone and vitality of a community (including senior citizens and first-time homebuyers) are often hardest hit by increases in the property tax structure.

We need to take a close look at distributing the cost of public education more fairly among our citizens through an increase in the sales tax. Increasing the sales tax can lighten the burden placed upon the property owners in the city and county by providing an additional revenue source without having to raise property taxes.

The sales tax increase that occurred in 1993 enabled the county to delay for many years any increase in property taxes due to the additional funding produced by that sales tax increase. By state law, half of the revenue raised through sales tax must go to schools and the other half to the municipalities. The major advantage to increasing the sales tax is that it is a broad-base tax, not limited to property owners, but shared by all persons who purchase items in the county.

Everyone gains by having a strong educational system and everyone who buys within the county then shares in the support of that strong system. No single group of taxpayers is charged with providing the lion’s share of funding for schools. Both city and county schools, as well as the city governments, share in the revenues generated in this manner.

Education is an economic “industry,” employing resources and producing an important output. Providing adequate funding for high quality educational opportunities in our county produces graduates who provide a productive and efficient workforce in our county.

Your support for a sales tax increase during the upcoming election will be an investment in maintaining and improving the quality of life in Wilson County. Thank you in advance for your support of the children of Wilson County and Lebanon Special School District.

Aaron Maynard, Wilson County finance director

Mickey Hall, deputy director of Wilson County Schools

Larry Tomlinson, school board member

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