Us or Them: Who pays for public education?

Published 4:44 pm Thursday, December 26, 2019

Not everyone troubled about higher property taxes in support of Troup County’s public schools seems aware that the state of Georgia cut millions of dollars from Troup’s education allotment during each of the last several years, beginning with the 2008 recession. In addition, for several years the state has not paid close to 100% for many requirements it imposed on its school systems. 

Not that long ago, we were in a situation where Troup schools were closed. Teachers underwent unpaid leave days and furloughs. Positions of retiring school staff were left unfilled. Class size changes were required. Only such actions as these made it possible to keep local school taxes from rising during the next several years.

One large organized group of property taxpayers now strongly resists participating in more local financial support for education. And it also insists that, until property owners age 62 and older are exempted from paying property taxes for public education, they will continue mass opposition and will work to remove board members from office.

The group, “Tax Relief for Troup County Property Owners”, tends to simplify complex issues by focusing on a single cause (increased property taxes) and a single set of opponents (the school board and school system administrators). They claim a pattern of wasteful spending by the system that conflicts with carefully documented figures by the system’s qualified career professionals, and they blame the current Board of Education as well as the new school superintendent. 

When reminded that years ago they themselves benefitted from educational support by all the taxpayers, the complaining group still insists on their exemption from such responsibility for today’s children and youth.

Now understandably, among Troup County’s elderly people are more than a few whose present life circumstances place them very close to the edge because of increasing costs and meager or declining income. 

For them, it may be impossible to pay higher taxes along with large medical bills, major obligations already incurred and continuing overall price increases. It would be humane, just, and altogether right to assist those seniors whose resources are so limited. But in truth, many of Troup County’s elderly are not so desperate. Clear judgment is required to help the ones most in need.

We are all in this together. The school board must have fully shared help from the entire leadership and citizenry of Troup County and its cities.

George Henry