By TONY STINNETT
Some Cannon County citizens already have taken advantage of early voting and made their decisions regarding a referendum for a 1 percent increase in the local sales tax on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election.
For those who haven't and either will vote early in the next few days or go to the polls Nov. 6, I urge you to vote yes for the 1 percent increase. Ours is an anti-tax society. No one wants to see their taxes raised and most will not voluntarily vote to raise them; however, this decision transcends our personal desires.
This referendum has a tremendous impact on schools as 50 percent of the 1 percent increase will go to fund education and necessary resources and programs within Cannon County's School System, which includes Cannon County High School, six grammar schools and an alternative school program serving students in seventh through 12th grades.
The budget for the Cannon County Schools System was cut this year, which is unacceptable. There is more pressure on students, teachers and administrators than ever before to meet the rising academic challenges placed on them.
Demand for production is great and the need to support new measures to improve student outcomes is even greater; however, funding for schools in Cannon County - and across the state for that matter - is not being met.
One of the most logical ways to address this overwhelming concern is to vote yes for the 1 percent increase. A yes vote is a vote for our children. No one likes to think about raising taxes but this is one increase that will produce great benefits for children and adults in Cannon County.
We must support proactive measures that will ensure that children in our community are prepared for a lifetime of achievement, and start school ready and eager to learn.
While 50 percent of this 1 percent increase will be earmarked for schools, the remaining half will go toward city and county government. No one likes increased taxes but this is a fairer tax than a property tax increase. Not everyone owns property, but everyone purchases goods, necessities and other items, thus everyone pays sales tax.
No one is thrilled about the idea of paying more taxes, but if the money is earmarked for children - our future - then everyone should be in favor. If the only way we can get what we need for the schools is to vote for a 1 percent increase, then I am in favor because I support education and our youth. The goal should be for every child in our county to have the best shot at the best education they can achieve. We must show our children that as a community we value them and we value their education.
Since children cannot vote it is our responsibility to advocate on their behalf. Public schools must be improved and we must understand that students must have the learning tools and community resources needed to be successful. Local academic achievement rates are demanding our immediate attention.
Despite limited funding and a depleted budget, Cannon County Director of Schools Barbara Parker and the seven principals within the System are to be commended for the level of academic excellence achieved; however, it is not enough. More funding would mean improved programs. More funding would mean additional programs that can be offered to enhance the quality of education.
Getting by simply is not good enough for Cannon County's youth, who are our leaders of tomorrow. They deserve more.
Cannon County's principals, teachers and students are to be applauded for the high level of success they achieve on state, regional and national levels. East Side School recently was recognized as one of Tennessee's "Award Schools" for academic achievement in 2011-12. Various clubs and organizations compete at the top level, but this is not because Cannon County has the resources necessary. It is because of the additional time, effort and funding provided by students, teachers and families responsible for the respective clubs or organizations.
The 1 percent tax sales tax increase would lift Cannon County's tax rate to 2.75 percent, which is equal to that of Bedford, Coffee, DeKalb, Rutherford and Warren Counties - all of which surround Cannon County. The current sales tax rate in Cannon County is a woeful 1.75 percent. Of the 95 counties in Tennessee only Johnson County is lower at 1.5 percent.
Opponents of the referendum to raise the sale tax argue it hurts the poorest citizens of our county because it affects every day goods. Less than 17 percent of the citizens in Cannon County are 65 or older.
An additional 21.6 percent of Cannon County's population is young people ages 18-under. That leaves more than 60 percent of Cannon Countians who are between the ages of 19-and-64 and likely travel outside of the county to work. They are also likely to travel outside the county to eat and shop.
Point is each time a person leaves Cannon County to eat or shop, he is paying the same tax rate being asked with this current referendum. Chances are they are also buying gas or other "goods." Those additional dollars are funding other counties and assisting to improve their schools, neighborhoods and communities.
Meanwhile, back in Woodbury and surrounding areas, the sales tax is amongst the lowest in the state. People passing through or are here for sporting events, car shows, Good 'Ole Days or any other function, only pay 1.75 percent sales tax. They are getting a break while our kids are getting the shaft. It is amazing that people would be willing to pay more elsewhere and not at home.
Cannon County citizens probably have done more to help fund schools in Rutherford County than they have the seven existing ones here.
If you care about out our future then say yes to education.
Say yes to our children.
Say yes to better schools.
Vote yes for the sales tax referendum.
The hope is you search your heart and do the right thing, which would be to vote in favor of the 1 percent increase.