STINNETT: Meet school needs

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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.

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Members Opinions:
October 30, 2012 at 1:25pm
Tony, let me begin by saying I think you are and have been a very big proponent of the schools and the children of our community ever since I have known you. For that you have my deepest respect. I know your intentions are good and sound and I truly believe you want what is best for all of them.

I will say I disagree with you on several points and for several obvious reasons I think.

1. I was informed by Bob Stoetzel that the County Commissioners did not cut the school budget. There is truth in that because they simply reduced the amount of money allocated from our property taxes to fund the school budget. And, it was something I fully supported.

The reason they could do that is because enrollment in our schools system has decreased and is trending to decrease even more. That is obvious when you look around the county and see 120 students K-8 in some of our schools.

2. The school budget is around $14 million a year. According to Barbara Parker it costs approximately $800,000 per school to keep the doors open. In a school with 140 students that equates to roughly $5700 per student being spent to keep that school open. Raising the sales tax to generate more money on the idea it is needed to help fund our students with a better education does not make sense when we are already averaging $5000 per student which is more than it would cost to send the student to a private school.

3. The State of Tennessee will reduce the amount of state funds given to Cannon County as student enrollment decreases each year. That is a fact of life driven by the idea of the need for money should be spent on the counties that have higher student population.

4. If the sales tax increase passes the education level of our students will neither increase nor decrease. It will not change if it doesn’t pass either.

5. I say what most people will not say. We have always been reactive instead of proactive in Cannon County. We always want to chase the problem instead of solving the problem. Raising our taxes will not solve the problem with our schools. To solve it, we must consolidate. Do that with one school and you save $800,000 a year which is DOUBLE to what the sales tax increase would generate.

Lastly, and most importantly to me, raising the sales tax affects and hurts the poorest members of our community and they receive no benefit from it. There are no more goods or services being offered if they do raise the tax and as I stated above the tax will not improve education for their children. You say less than 17 percent of the citizens in Cannon County are 65 or older. Of that 17 percent how many of those who are 65 years or older are living BELOW the poverty line? Every dollar those people get from whatever check they receive is needed to fund the basic needs of life. How could anyone expect or ask them to pay more when most of them barely survive right now?

One thing I know to be certain is it is impossible to tax ourselves into prosperity. It has never worked in the history of our nation and it will never work in our county.

We should be working toward fixing the problem with our outdated school system not by throwing money at it by raising our sales tax, but by looking toward solutions that will be long term. By the way, I have had three children total go through our school system and still currently have two in them now. I am deeply vested in the schools. I am very pro teacher (have a son who is at MTSU who is going to become a teacher) and I am very pro schools, but I am not blinded by tradition to see what needs to be done to solve the problem. The issue is not the need to raise our sales tax to fund schools; the issue is we have an outdated, antiquated system with six grammar schools that are 30, 40 and 50 years old. Throwing money into that idea is like light escaping from a black hole; it just is not going to work!

I encourage everyone to vote NO for the sales tax increase because it is not the answer to solving our problems!
October 30, 2012 at 2:06pm
Corey, with all due respect. You had your letter to the editor to share your thoughts and opinions. I don't think we need an additional 1,000 to 2,000 words from you on the issue. We know where you stand but you have a knack for following up on other people's opinions and piling on even more. You made your points, you wrote your opinion. I would think that's enough, wouldn't you? I strongly disagree with several of your bullet points but I am not going to break those down one by one. I have made my opinion on this issue clearly known. I will not attack yours or anyone else's opinion and I don't appreciate you breaking mine down point by point. I believe the fine folks of Cannon County are quite capable of reading people's letters and/or columns and forming their own opinion without having you walk them through it. This is also why I adamantly oppose folks having an opportunity to post opinions to stories on this site.
October 30, 2012 at 2:40pm

Well, I wasn't attacking you Tony. I thought I was quite clear on that when I stated I had a deep respect for your desire to see our children grow and flourish in our community. You and I have always been on the same page as that. I am sorry that if someone disagrees with you it feels like it is a personal attack on you.

I was simply pointing out several inconsistencies with your argument that was all. And ones that would help make the people of this community make an informed opinion when they do vote on the sales tax increase.

By the way, I am not like you in that I had the ability to write a 1020 word editorial. Mine was limited to the 250 words the Courier requires when submitting a letter to the editor. The opinion section allows me to further those facts and nothing more.

The opinions expressed here are allowed because as I will quote the owner "he is a defender of free speech" and I adamantly agree with him even if you do not.
October 30, 2012 at 2:49pm
By the way, I did not take offense to your comment in the article that "opponents of the referendum to raise the sale tax argue it hurts the poorest citizens of our county because it affects every day goods".

I just simply took it as a point you were trying to make and nothing more.
October 31, 2012 at 10:53am
Ad nauseam I believe it is called.

Worthwhile article as is Ray Todd's which dispels the myth that this tax would unduly burden the poor of the county.

Vote Yes if you are interested in the future of our youth.
Vote no if you have no interest.
October 31, 2012 at 12:25pm
Stalker is the word the courts use.

Funny how all the people who claim to know what's best for the poor or what does and does not affect them have never been poor a day in their life.

They have never had to worry about a fixed income. They have never worried about providing their children with items like clothes, food or anything else in life they might want. They have never had to accept food stamps nor have family members help them because they were raising two kids on their own with no help.

All of them seem to be "poor experts" and not a single one of them have wanted for nothing their entire life.

That is definitely who I want to believe has "dispelled the myth" about the poor being hurt the most.

Especially considering the source of the "consultant" is biased and prejudiced to a fault.
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