The property tax renewal for eduproperty tax renewal for education in Lauderdale County passed easily at the ballot box last week by greater than 4-1 margins in the city and county boxes.
Like most ballot measures of this type, the vote was not widely publicized in advance. It was an 11 mil tax renewal voted for in 30-year cycles. This one has been on the books since at least 1954. It generates $3.9 million for Florence city schools and $5.8 million for Lauderdale county schools. Only 9.9% of the 64,000 registered voters weighed in last week at the polls - about what was predicted.
A renewal is perceived differently than a newly-proposed tax. Renewals tend to be a lot more palatable than new taxes these days. However, that doesn’t mean they are a sure thing, especially when distortions are rampant on social media.
Based on the mischaracterization of this renewal by many on social media and the resulting feeding-frenzy by the ill-informed, this vote was anybody’s guess.
What we do know is that many people have more time on their hands than they need.
First, let me assure you that I don’t like any taxes. However, I do like paved roads, a police presence, essential services that keep a society running, and a social safety net that takes care of those who cannot take care of themselves or those who have hit a temporary rough patch in life.
I have no children or grandchildren in a Lauderdale or Florence system to benefit from this millage tax, so it is money strictly going out for me. I am not directly benefitting.
However, this is already on the books and budgeted specifically for schools. So, it won’t be costing me more year over year. The fact that it already exists doesn’t matter to some people, and I don’t have a problem with that perspective.
If the point of a no vote is a protest over what they teach in public school and what they omit with a mounting secularist angle, I tip my hat to you. If the premeditated purpose of crafting the likely set of voters and the added taxpayer expense (as opposed to having it as part of a coming primary) is why you vote “NO”, then you won’t get any flak from me.
However, I marveled at the blatant distortions and scare tactics that certain anti groups were espousing on Facebook early last week.
Statements like “The Florence City Council raised your taxes by 28.5% this year already and gave less to first responders than promised. They didn’t give any to schools either.”
The council increase was actually 11.18%. First responders have nothing to do with this issue, and the fact that nothing went to schools from that increase is no reason to vote THIS proposal down.
“The school board is using taxpayer resources to spread propaganda and already spent $70,000 for the special election...
“School Superintendent, Jon Hatton, used his work email address to send, “Vote Yes” propaganda to school system employees.”...
“What’s next? Are the superintendent and school board members going to use taxpayer money to promote their own reelection campaigns next year?”
It is my understanding the election expense was under $15,000. This is still an added expense, but its more tenable when not exaggerated. Hatton, the county superintendent, was reminding his employees of the vote and what was on the line. It had nothing to do with him. His job and income are secure until the next election, regardless of the outcome. That cannot be said for all school system employees. In my estimation it would be negligent on the part of any superintendent to not fight for the several millions of dollars on the line.
ANY comparison of these renewal emails from his school system account to any personal campaign efforts is ludicrous.
“Legislators raised your gas taxes by 12 cents per gallon over the last three years. Some of this was supposed to go to schools, and they claimed these taxes would benefit the children.”
Part of that is 2¢/gallon diverted for the new Ag Center when previous economic development obligations are fulfilled. The Ag Center WILL be beneficial to students. The new state gas tax is 10¢/gallon spread over several years. None of that money can be used for schools. Statewide gas taxes must be used for federal matching or state highway/transportation projects.
It’s one thing to oppose a position or an individual and voice those concerns at the ballot box. However, we should be able to make decisions based on sound information, not blatantly false data that is meant to scare or infuriate voters.
The approaching primary and general election seasons are sure to present some opportunities for some lies, omissions, and mischaracterizations. Let’s just hope they are kept to a minimum.