John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

An Alternative to Cries from the Tea Party: Let’s hear it for a tax increase

John N. Gardner
President
I am fortunate to live in a beautiful, peaceful little town of 6000 in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. Like towns all across America, citizens are being prepared by local officials and newspapers for draconian cuts coming next year. We are being warned to expect mass firings of teachers and increases in class sizes in public schools. The news is very bleak. The political party driving these changes keeps saying “we have to make a change”. There is no talk of increasing the ledger on the revenue side, only of cutting on the expenditure side.
After watching this terrible train wreck get closer and closer my wife and I decided to write your local paper and issue a call for a tax increase to prevent teacher layoffs and harm to our children. This blog post contains the content of our letter. I hope that some of my readers will consider writing a similar letter to their own local newspaper. Those of us who have benefited the most from education must take a stand to preserve it for those less fortunate and less powerful. Here is what we said:
Letter to Transylvania Times
Subject: We Support A Tax Increase to Protect Our Schools!
Dear Editor:
We write to share our preference for a tax increase to support our local public schools and to invite other citizens who might share our view, to join us in a similar expression. That’s right: you read correctly—we want a tax increase.

As context for a position we would like to present in this letter, we would want it understood that the undersigned authors of this letter are two, married (to each other) County residents and taxpayers of “retirement” age and who do not have, and have never had, any of our five children in any of our County Schools because they all grew up in other places before we moved here. We have lived in the County for nearly twelve years. One of the many reasons we moved here from South Carolina was that when we were in the exploratory phase of considering Transylvania County as our future home back in the mid-1990’s, we learned that the County’s progressive minded citizens had approved a school bond referendum back in 1996 by a two-to-one majority. Given the demographics of the County, with such a large retired population of senior citizens with no children in the school system to be concerned about, we thought this was quite remarkable. It let us know that Transylvania County citizens truly understood the powerful connection between taxation levels to support excellent local schools and the overall quality of life here in the County.

Recently, our excellent local newspaper, which thankfully presents fairly all points of views, has been keeping us all well informed about the real threat of significant cuts in funding for our local schools and the dismaying possibility that there will need to be significant layoffs and termination of schools’ personnel in our country. We don’t want that to happen and we are willing to invest our hard earned money to support our local community and its educators and children.

One of us had a mother that used to joke “there is no future in old age”. But there is, of course, a future for our children. We believe that our greatest responsibility is to do whatever is necessary, including making certain sacrifices, to provide the best possible future for our local children and hence for the quality of life in our local community.
We do not want to see a local property tax increase any more than the majority of citizens would. But we want even less to see any deterioration in the quality of our local schools. All of North Carolina, including this county, has made tremendous strides in catching up with the rest of the United States and has greatly improved public education over the past three decades. We do not want to see the clock set back. And, if necessary, we support higher taxation to prevent that from happening.  We want better schools for our community and we are willing to pay for it. We have had our education. Now we want local children to enjoy the wonderful opportunities we have had in our lives, all made possible through education.
Please join us in expressing your willingness to pay more taxes to protect, preserve, and enhance our local schools.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
Betsy O. Barefoot                           John N. Gardner

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