Juanice Gray | Editor
Whatever your stance on any ballot item, the greatest opportunity you have in America is the right to vote. There is only one item on the ballot for most of the parish this Saturday, but it?s an item that will mean so much to the future of education.
Residents in the Village of Natchez will also cast votes in their mayoral runoff.
The school board sales tax renewal is for 1%, which comes to an estimated $8.2 million annual income for the district.
This tax was first passed in 1982 according to board Director of Finance Lee Waskom. Since then, he said the measure has passed by ?reasonably comfortable? margins each time it came up for a 10-year extension. The verbiage is a bit different this year, the renewal is for perpetuity, or forever.
The school board operates on three half-cent sales taxes and this 1% tax. The three half-cent sales taxes are already established in perpetuity.
Waskom said he recommended perpetuity for this tax for consistency and the fact is was “strongly supported each time it passed.”
“All our other funding is through bonds with expiration dates. For example, the BRE (building repairs) renewal will require only a 10-year extension. Also, after watching another governmental agency struggle when they didn’t get their renewal on the ballot, we thought this would be the way to go,” he said.
Dr. Grant Eloi, superintendent, said the sales tax generates a significant portion of the budget, that mainly goes to salaries. “Wages take up 70 – 75% of the funds. Having sales taxes exist in perpetuity is not that uncommon. And it gives us the ability to keep the lights on and prevents us from losing the ability to give out tax checks.”
Waskom reiterated, “This is a renewal, just not a 10-year renewal. It is permanent.”
A sales tax is one that applies to the purchase of goods and services for consumers and to the sale of goods and services for businesses. It?s a type of consumption tax, imeaning it taxes people for spending money. It?s categorized as a consumption tax because sales taxes are generally passed along to consumers at the point of sale.
Simply put, a perpetuity in the financial world is the present value of a stream of cash that goes on into the future, forever
On the flip side, individuals may want to retain control of the sales tax, and the board, by doing what they will this Saturday, voting. A perpetual sales tax ensures a steady revenue stream forever, but essentially takes the final say away from the people. To preserve the choice of voters, an election would need to happen every 10 years, as it has been done since 1982. Pass or fail, based on the climate of the superintendent, board and district, would be determined by the public.
As a concerned citizen, I feel that I need to voice my opinion about the April 30, 2022 School Board tax proposal on the ballot. Initially, my decision was to support the tax renewal for (1%). However, upon a closer review of the wording, I noticed that is was to be a tax “in perpetuity” meaning that is would thereafter be approved without further vote by the citizens “forever”.
Currently this tax is set to be renewed by the voters every 10 years, with the next renewal date being on 01 August, 2023. Upon further investigation I learned that there is is currently an additional (1.5%) tax dedicated to school Board which has already been voted into perpetuity. An additional (1%) would bring this total to (2.5%) dedicated to the School Board “forever”.
My main concern is that having citizens voting about the funding of any government entity, is one of the primary means of keeping that entity responsible to the people that they are supposed to represent. By making these taxes perpetual we are giving up one of our rights to disagree with, in this case the School Board.
Our national news channels are currently reporting on School Boards in our Nation which have gone “rogue”. School Boards which are banning parental participation at School Board meetings, even going so far as having parents arrested for voicing their objections to School Board policy.
Let me be clear, I have no major concerns about our current School Boards’ discharge of their duties to their students, to parents, or to the citizens that put them into this important position of trust. BUT what about the future? No one can predict it accurately. Are we, by passing this legislation, giving away a fundamental right that we have, as citizens of our great nation?
James R. Smith