School board blinks, keeps tax rate

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Crowded second hearing sways members away from 4 percent revenue increase

By Shannon Brock

The public spoke Wednesday night, and the Anderson County Board of Education listened.

The board voted unanimously to leave the property tax rate where it is, and where it has been for the past two years.

The property tax rate will remain at $5.52 per $1,000 of assessed value, meaning the school’s portion of this year’s tax bills will neither increase nor decrease.

Dozens of concerned citizens attended a public hearing on the tax rate Wednesday, and most of them implored the board not to raise taxes.

Several citizens in attendance asked what the district was doing to cut back on utility expenses.

Superintendent Sheila Mitchell said the board has a contract with Energy Education and has an energy manager on staff.

Director of Student Services Derek Shouse expanded on that, providing the examples that air conditioning doesn’t run in the schools in the summer and food that has to be refrigerated is consolidated into one or two locations during the summer. He also pointed out that the district is constructing energy conscious facilities to reduce utility ing, reminded board members that the same questions about the tax rate came up last year when the board proposed an increase.

“Is this going to happen every year?” he asked. “Are you going to ask for more next year?”

Board Chairman Lee Hahn responded that the tax rate has to be addressed on a yearly basis and “each year brings up new issues.”

Board member Roger McDowell, who has consistently opposed a tax increase, said he would consider it a tragedy to raise taxes on people.

“There comes a time to make due with what you’ve got,” he said.

David Bird, with Anderson County Farm Bureau, said now — when there is a 10 percent unemployment rate and when state workers are being forced to take a furlough — is not a time to raise taxes.

“For people with a job, [a tax increase] could mean the difference in eating steak and bologna,” Bird said. “But for some people it could be the difference in losing their home or not.”

Dana Froste agreed.

“Our economy is in the toilet,” she said, questioning why teachers are getting raises when a lot of other professions are not.

Teachers earn a step increase based on their number of years with the district.

Former superintendent Sonny Fentress spoke out in favor of a 4 percent revenue increase saying that the board needed to be on the side of the children.

“I resent the fact that I’m against children,” Harold Todd responded. Todd says he has family members who are teachers and grandchildren in the school system.

Todd suggested the focus should not be on raising taxes, but bringing industry to Anderson County to increase the tax base.

“There is a limit to what we can pay as Anderson Countians,” Todd said.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the board called to order a special meeting. McDowell made a motion to leave the tax rate the same.

Vice chair Benita Young seconded the motion, and all board members voted in favor of leaving the tax rate the same.

E-mail Shannon Brock at sbrock@theandersonnews.com.