“I’m in favor of going one more penny . . . We’re not talking about that much more in taxes.”
Those are the words of Wake County Commissioner Betty Lou Ward responding to a question if she would favor an even larger tax increase to provide additional money to the Wake County Schools (WCPSS). Her words were part of a story on the subject in yesterday’s Raleigh News and Observer.
Wake County Commissioners are already responding to a recommendation by County Manager Jim Hartmann to provide an additional $34 million in new funding for WCPSS. To do so, the county manager has proposed increasing property taxes by 2.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The proposal would increase taxes on the average $265,000 home in Wake County by $77 per year.
According to WCPSS, that’s not enough. WCPSS has requested $48.3 million.from the County in this year’s budget. The $14 million gap will force school leaders to choose among priorities such as teacher salaries and expansions of magnet programs..
The solution? Some say it’s a bigger tax increase.
Earlier this week, County staff ran an analysis that said a tax increase of 3.9 cents would essentially allow the county to meet WCPSS’s budget requests for the year.
An increase of 3.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation would raise annual taxes on a $265,000 home $103 per year.
Hence Ward’s comment, “I’m in favor of going one more penny, said Ward. We’re not talking about that much more in taxes.” The comment is certainly instructive. The phrase “one more penny” sounds strangely like Bev Perdue in 2012 when she called on the General Assembly to temporarily restore a fraction of a penny three quarter cent sales tax increase to reverse “deep and unnecessary cuts” to public education A penny for education became Perdue’s plea.
Are we really talking about only one more penny?
Perdue’s penny increase really amounted an 11 percent increase in the sales tax. Likewise Betty Lou Ward’s “one more penny” is another way to raise the sales tax by 34 percent. You don’t see politicians running around saying such things. One more penny is more palatable — yet deceptive.
Schools need money; there’s no escaping that reality. WCPSS’s budget request represents a 14 percent increase over the previous year, an excessive amount for many. But schools like everyone else need to live within their budgets. Despite the economic downturn, over the past five years the WCPSS operating budget has increased 11 percent, with much of that increase coming in the last year.
One more penny? That’s not quite the whole story.