Holy buckets, can you believe we're back discussing ways to increase taxes?
Yes, the issue is front and center again, although this time it's a call for a wheel tax. Annually.
And — wait for it — the proceeds are to go to the school system.
Yes, the same school system that is facing growing concerns among teachers and some board of education members about classroom discipline problems.
Yes, the same school system that is building its house on test results that measure improvement rather than preparation or knowledge.
(How nonsensical are the much-ballyhooed test results that measure student growth year over year? Well, going from zero to 3 is viewed as a tremendous triumph, way better than, say, starting at 4 and remaining at 4. That's great for those students. But what is the system doing to advance the students at the 4 school? Think about that.)
Yes, this is the same school system that has had its hand out for years despite keeping its hands in its pockets when meaningful academic change (or leadership) has been called for.
This latest money grab was suggested by Hamilton County Commissioner David Sharpe, who is so deep in the UnifiEd circle he should spell his last name SharpE.
The worst part of this wheel tax? According to TFP reporter Sarah Grace Taylor's recent story, the wording in the draft to be put on the ballot next March is that, if passed Wednesday, the windfall of money would be used for "salary increases in Hamilton County's education department."
They have to be kidding us. Have to.
No word about the hundreds of millions of dollars we will need for facilities improvements or new buildings. Nope.
This is for salary increases, and not just for teachers. For the bureaucracy that as far as I can tell is more bloat than benefit.
And before we get to the conversation about teachers and their pay, this seems like an opportune time to remind everyone of the series of unfortunate events that happened this summer when the school system was looking for a $34 million property tax rate increase.
* Tax idea floated with the major selling point being giving teachers a 5% raise across the board;
* Tax play debated, including offers of ways to drop the total request and keep the 5% teacher raise in place, which inexplicably was not an option in the school leadership's eyes;
* Tax increase wisely voted down by a 5-4 margin, and the revised budget request did not include a raise — instead a one-time bonus was included — and still kept more than 180 new employee hires in the budget.
The resolution, if passed, would put a referendum to establish a wheel tax on the ballot during the March 3, 2020, primary election. It would collect taxes on more than 285,000 vehicles in Hamilton County, equaling $17 million in additional revenue.
And, as our budget and tax base has grown through the years, that number will only rise as our population rises, too.
Which means, that, if passed, the slick folks on Bonny Oaks will get their cake (raises) and make us eat it.
The well-organized political action group UnifiEd likely will play an out-sized role in how public support for this tax increase will be built.
Of course, it will argue that putting the decision in the hands of the public is the only democratic thing to do.
I offer the opposite. I contend that SharpE and other early backers of this wheel tax proposal — other backers backed by UnifiEd — are setting up what to me looks like an end-run around the county commission. (Don't you wish Jeremy Pruitt called plays as creatively?)
Know this, the UnifiEd people are completely up to the task of organizing student-led, door-to-door voter education efforts. That's a whole lot easier than changing the minds of diligent, right-minded, fiscally conservative elected government leaders.
Here's hoping the commissioners do not give them that chance Wednesday.
Either way, it makes me really wish the UnifiEd folks were as good at education policy as they are at politics.
Contact Jay Greeson at email@example.com.