First I want to agree with Jay Reed’s recent expression of appreciation to the Chattanoogan.com for the opportunity we have to share opinions like this. And I want to thank the many people who have shared their concerns about our community, especially on the topics of taxes and our schools. I also want to thank the elected officials who will be making decisions in the near future related to all this - I don’t envy you a bit. I have three kids in our Hamilton County Public School system (thank you teachers and administrators), and I pay property taxes in Hamilton County, and here are my thoughts.
My first suggestion is to put a hold on any tax increase until we figure out what, if anything, should receive more money. Just throwing more money at the whole educational system is a foolish way to try to get improvements. It might make sense to invest in the whole stock market if you are happy with overall stock market trends, but it does not make sense to throw more money into the whole local educational business if we aren’t happy with its overall results and direction.
Since there are a limited amount of dollars that the local population can muster up, it seems to me we should determine what isn’t working and end those things and invest in the programs and strategies that are succeeding and thriving. Hard decisions need to be made and I would rather see successful programs expanded. Shift dollars from what isn’t working to what is working. Basically yes, I’m talking about outcomes. Positive outcomes from principals, schools, and programs get more funding and are replicated.
My second suggestion has to do with taxes, and specifically with property taxes. First off, I would like to thank all those people and organizations who have recently commented and offered to pay more. Whatever our elected officials decide in the near future, there will be a certain percentage of our population that thinks even more money should be going into our schools and they personally are willing to pay more. Immediately, if not sooner, someone in the school system should create a website where people can go and contribute one-time or recurring donations to our school system. It’s not just a few people! There is probably 10-20 percent of our population that see the need, have the means, and are willing to help pay more than what is required. Let them! Maybe they could even select where they want their donation to be allocated to, such as teachers, buildings, the superintendent, sports, arts or whatever.
My other suggestion about property taxes is to take the McDonald’s senior coffee approach (cheaper coffee for seniors). We should take a look at the average age that income flattens and then decreases and allow all seniors when they hit that certain determined age to ask for the “senior discount” which would automatically freeze their property taxes, or even better trigger an automatic decrease in their property taxes by a set percentage, maybe 2-3 percent per year. Certainly you can pay full price for your “coffee” especially if you see the need and have the means, but if you choose, you could ask for and get the "senior coffee" property tax plan.