Americans are consumers, no doubt about that. And when it comes to quenching our thirst, we don’t seem shy about dropping some dollars to do so.
The research and consulting firm Beverage Marketing Corp. found in a 2016 study that Americans annually drink 39.3 gallons of bottled water and 38.5 gallons of soda. If you break that down into the consumable units we all enjoy — 16-ounce water bottles and 20-ounce bottles of pop — each year we individually spend $293.22 in soda and $31.44 on bottled water (purchased by the flat on sale).
You may say, “Good information, I guess; but where are you going with this, Duke?”
Commissioner Joe Daughtery suggested and the Wayne County Board of Commissioners voted last week to look at adding 1.5 cents in tax per $100 of property value. That means a $100,000 home would pay an additional $15 in property tax a year. According to the board, the increase would be added to the budget for the commissioners to consider, with the brunt of it — 2/3 or 1 penny — going to public school teacher supplements.
It’s not a done deal, yet. But that doesn’t stop all the anti-tax people from coming out vehemently in opposition. Words like “thieves,” “crooks” and “those guys who will be voted out in the next election” have been heard since the board approved the “information” item during the commissioners’ Wednesday budget workshop.
No one wants to pay more tax. I certainly don’t. But a case can be made why this 1.5 cents is a good deal. In the upcoming Wayne County Public Schools budget, the schools propose a 1 percent increase in teacher supplements. That’s the money over and above the state-mandated salary for teachers. Supplements are used to entice good teachers to come to a school district and stay there. Of the 115 school districts in the state, Wayne County ranks 46th in the amount paid in teacher supplements. The county hanging out in the middle of the pack does not entice teachers to come to or stay in Wayne County public schools. We have to be more aggressive. I suggested last week a minimum of a 3.9 percent increase in teacher supplements. That’s better but still not enough.
A penny from the additional 1.5 cents in property tax would add more than $400 annually to teacher supplements. If the county passes the tax increase, how do we pay for the tax? One possible way takes me back to the top of this story.
If one person in a home valued at $100,000 were to consume about 13 fewer bottles of soda each year, the family would see a savings of about $15.47. That’s given the average 20-ounce bottle of soda costs $1.19. Who wouldn’t give up just one bottle of soda a month so teachers could see they are valued, and children can better benefit from those teachers?
I would. But do we need to?
Since the board of commissioners announced the 1.5 additional cents as an “information” item, I was happy to see it; in fact, I was thrilled. Introducing a possible tax hike starts the conversation going about why it is essential to get teachers more money. I do not believe an additional tax is necessary. I know it’s not. The equivalent of the 1.5 cents over the next few years may be seen in the county coffers after the county revaluation is complete. Some people will be paying more tax then, but they benefit from the increased value of their property.
Also, as in any budget, money can be cut. The cost of some items can be reduced or eliminated. The hardcore anti-tax people would say taxpayers should get rebates when the county finds savings. But a county or city board cannot keep lowering taxes and ignore needed services, such as teacher pay and first-responder needs. The county, and city for that matter, have slashed these professions to the bone, and it must be reversed.
The government should only do for the people what they cannot do for themselves. A guy you may have heard of — Abraham Lincoln — first said something along those lines. We parents and grandparents on our own generally cannot educate and prepare our children for adult life in an ever-changing world. Just as we cannot take care of policing our homes and neighborhoods, fighting fires or maintaining our roads. When it comes to education, we need teachers, and above all else, we need to pay them well.
These things are the government’s responsibility, and that requires taxes.
If the county passes the 1.5-cent tax increase, I will reduce my consumption of high-priced sodas and bottled water to stand in solidarity with teachers. But the county commissioners should look at cutting the budget or making do with the additional money from revaluation rather than hit the taxpayers up again with additional fees.