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The surest way to keep poor people poor is to deny them a proper education.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
The true measure of a place is how well it prepares for the future by taking care of its children. By that yardstick, Franklin County supervisors fall short.
Supervisors voted down a 2-cent increase in the real estate tax that would have allowed the county’s schools to continue on their pace. Now, the school board will be faced on Wednesday with making difficult and hurtful spending cuts that could increase class sizes, curtail help to struggling students, prevent the brightest students from attending the governor’s school, and reserve sports and activities for children who happen to come from families that can pay to play.
The 2-cent increase would have meant $20 a year, or the price of a pizza dinner, for the owner of a $100,000 house. But the cumulative effect of that increase would have added up to $1.5 million in much-needed cash to fund a school system that has barely managed through years of recession-imposed cutbacks.
It was a small price to pay to tread water, but too steep for all but one prescient supervisor, Bobby Thompson.
Instead, Supervisor Charles Wagner fretted that people continue to lose their jobs. Yet the county’s unemployment rate, which basically tracks the state’s, has improved.
Chairman David Cundiff reasoned many families can’t afford a tax increase, given the high number of students who qualify for free or reduced school lunches. “I can’t put a burden on people who are already struggling,” he said.
Yet the surest way to keep them struggling into the next generation is to deny their children a proper education.
The impact of the 2-cent increase would have been minimal on lower-end homes, and it would have helped to recapture some of the dollars from pricey Smith Mountain Lake homes lost during last year’s reassessment. The tax value of property changes only every four years, so the popping of the housing bubble will impact tax revenue until 2016, even as the housing market rebounds.
Supervisors chose not to equalize the real estate rate last year, while bumping up the property tax on automobiles. For now, many residents will continue to enjoy a tax decrease on their homes, one that comes at the expense of children’s education.
It’s too late now for supervisors to do right by the children, forcing the school board to make difficult cuts that will show up in the fall term. Just in time, then, for voters to respond.
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