by Mark Moore
Nic Horton has more details about the issue and the debate over it here, and its worth a read. The bottom line is that some small school districts have giant industrial works available from which to draw property taxes. Therefore, they can meet the socialistic part of our state’s school funding formula without the need to raise property taxes to the level required in most districts. In a divide-and-conquer maneuver, Beebe has suggested looting eight (for now) prosperous districts and dividing the spoils among poorer districts.
What is not being covered much is that our school funding formula is already fairly socialistic. The guy who wrote it, deceased Senator Jodie Mahony, bragged that he wrote it so that no one could understand it. Perhaps I am over-simplifying, but the first 25 mills of every school district’s property taxes, or an amount equal to the state per-pupil funding, is tossed into a common till and divided equally. Obviously some of the poorer districts pitch in less per pupil, and the richer districts contribute more, and from that pool equal shares are drawn. Anything over 25 mills (or the per-pupil funding amount) is kept by the district. I bet most of you did not know that the first 25 mills of your local property tax was already sent to the state for redistribution!
Still, that’s not enough socialism for Gov. Mike Beebe, and certainly not enough for the folks at the Arkansas Times. Why, to them its just not “fair” that some districts have a power plant in their district which allows them to operate their school on a lower millage. Their wealth should be looted, er, I mean “shared” by all.
Never mind that most of these liberals would oppose having a power plant, in particular a coal-fired one like Gentry has, in their town. Never mind that some of the most rural won’t even tolerate a Wal-Mart, much less an unsightly industrial plant cluttering their pristine landscape. Never mind that no one is forcing them to live in the district in which they live, or keeping them out of the towns which are more prosperous. They want to, through the magical power of socialism and government force, have their cake and eat it too. They want the other town to put up with the hassle of having a messy power plant, but when its time to enjoy the fruits of this infrastructure they think its not “fair” that the other town has a larger source of property tax revenue than they do.
The whole thing reminds me of the children’s tale when the Hen asks who will help her sow her field with wheat? Then who will help her harvest her wheat? Then who will help her grind it to flour? Then who will help her bake it into bread? At each stage of the story, the other animals say “not I”. Finally she asks “who will help me eat me bread?” At that point all of the other animals say “I will I will”. In the story, she gets to say “not so, for you did not help me” when it was time to do any of that other work. In real life, this story may not have such a happy ending, because that sly fox Beebe is going to call it “government” and have the other animals vote that this “unfair” accumulation of bread be shared equally.
You don’t have to be a localist, as I am, to know that local property taxes should be kept local and controlled locally. Once the centralizers establish the precedent of controlling local property taxes, there will be no end to Little Rock, and even Washington, rifling through our pockets.