Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How much would tax increase really cost?

Yesterday I posted about a phone survey taken last week and whether residents were on board with raising taxes to fund the proposed school budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In addition, I encouraged folks to get in on the conversation over at the hippie's blog, which you can find right smack here.

Anyhoo, school board Vice Chairwoman Indya Kincannon responded to the entry about the Focus poll, noting that it's all in how you frame the question. She agreed that the tax increase would amount to more than 14 percent, but that the numbers might not be as high.

For example, someone who pays $900 per year in taxes would need to ante up another $137 a year to pay for Superintendent Jim McIntyre's plan. She said that's a little more than $2.60 a week.

By my math that's about a couple of sodas (and not even a six-pack of brew unless you drink that real cheap stuff, and if that's the case, you should probably quit drinking).

Anyhoo, Indya wondered what the poll results might have looked like if the questions was framed (I'm paraphrasing here): Would you be willing to pay an extra $2.60 in coin per week to support the children?

In the meantime, she put together a pretty cool property tax worksheet that shows the costs if taxes were raised. The $2.63 per week by the way applies to the median Knox County homeowner ($156,500 house).

You can find the complete table right smack here.

UPDATE: Super PR guy Mike Cohen sent me a note, saying he liked Indya's chart, but that a lot of taxes in Knox County are paid by businesses, which are valued at 40 percent, not 25 percent. He suggested it would be good to do a chart for them. Of course, my laziness is well-documented so . . . . Indya also sent me a note, saying that $2.63 is less than a gallon of milk and less than a gallon of gas, and way less than many parents contribute to their PTAs and classroom supply lists.


CountyTaxpayer said...

Uh, the vote would still be no. I'm tired of providing ever increasing amounts of monies to the school system, but still see lower and lower test scores.

Brian Paone said...

If I pay the extra $2.60 a week, will West High School finally teach their kids how to use a f*&^ing crosswalk?

No, really, one of those kids is going to get hit sooner or later.

I don't really want to hear about how cheap people think an increase is. I'd rather hear a lot more detail about how they plan to use it. Hell, put me down for an extra $20 a week if we've got a solid enough plan with a reasonable enough chance of success to justify it.

That's the important set of details being left out of this conversation, I think.

(I still don't see how an iPad is a "robust technology device".)

IK said...


I agree that how we plan to invest the money is vital information.

There are a lot of charts, spreadsheets and memos detailing the proposal at There is also information on how we are using our current resources. and the results we're getting to date.

Or if you'd rather listen to a presentation, come to Fulton High School tonight, Thursday 6pm. Listen, ask questions.

I think it's a fiscally responsible plan that will truly benefit students, teachers and the whole community.


Indya Kincannon

Lord Von Lord said...

With due respect to Ms.Kincannon, stating that this increase is less than a gallon of either milk or gas is not a winner. Just reminds the public of how expensive life's staples have become and thus maybe they can't afford this increase at all.

IK said...

Good point. Maybe Mike Cohen can suggest some messaging strategies as that's definitely not my forte.

Still, if we take the long view, which I know is hard if you're struggling to pay the bills, investing more in education means better jobs, more earning capacity, more capacity to pay for staples such as milk and gas.

It's also important to consider the costs of maintaining the status quo. We can do better.

Lord Von Lord said...

Ms Kincannon, it is very commendable that you would advocate for more funding. Clearly you are doing what you believe to be advantageous to the school system and I applaud that. Dr. McIntyre has a hard sell however.

I personally find it cynical and distasteful when elected officials use examples like milk or gas to demonstrate what people can do without. I recall during the acrimonious battles over the wheel tax increase the Ragsdale administration tut-tutted the voters and I remember several media outlets using the pack of cigarettes or six pack as a cynical example of what people should sacrifice. People shouldn't be made to feel guilty by enjoying their lives and shamed into giving something up, even if it appears to society as a so-called vice. I am sure that many motorists think about that nice new school in Hardin Valley when they pay for their tags. However, a great many also wonder how many lobster dinners it paid for. I voted for that tax, and felt like a rube with every news story over the excesses of the previous administration.

IK said...

Lack of trust is a challenge, and Knox County citizens have some valid reasons to distrust.

I can't change the past, but can try to positively influence the future. I truly believe these proposed investments will reap big rewards for our community over the long haul.

Also, please know that I wasn't suggesting that people give up milk or gas (or even beer & cigarettes). I was just trying to be transparent about the potential cost of these new investments, to give people context beyond the abstract 14% figure.

Brian Paone said...

Hi Indya. Thanks for getting back to me.

Went and looked at the data provided by the schools, though I would like to note the reservations I have about relying solely on the projections of the entity requesting more money. I'm sure I don't have to go into the old saw about lies, damned lies and statistics.

I'm left with a few questions after looking over the information. Please feel free to correct me - it's been a while since I've even cared about school.

Only 19% of the 2011 class was considered to have met all four of the ACT's "college readiness" benchmarks according to the information provided by the school system. According to the ACT, those benchmarks represent the following scores on different sections of the test:

English: 18 (top possible score's still a 36, right?)
Reading: 21
Math: 22
Science: 24

I was curious if the school system had a breakdown of that particular information - specifically, I'm looking to see how many kids nailed three out of four of the benchmarks, half of them, just one or none at all (hopefully there's NONE of those), and I'm also looking for information as to which of the four pillars was the most missed, second most, second last and the pillar that most seemed to be hitting. (I hope it's English.)

Also, what was the percentage of students that hit all four benchmarks in previous years, when funding was increased via short-term state and Federal infusions of cash?

That's all for now. I may or may not be able to make the school board meeting, but will give it the ol' college try. Thanks for the invite and the response! -B

(iPads? Why?)

Lord Von Lord said...

Ms Kincannon, thanks for taking the time to reply. It is appreciated.

IK said...


I will look for more detailed ACT info. I believe we've had a mid-month work session devoted to that sometime in the last 12 months.

Tablet devices, such as i-pads, are only part of the tech budget proposal. Additional funds would also allow us to improve the infrastructure in our buildings to better support all kinds of hardware and wireless. A more detailed break-down of how the money would be spent should be posted to later today.

Some people think we should get I-Pads into the hands of every student ASAP. Other people think it's all gimmickry. I believe tech investments can enhance learning, give teachers more tools to engage their students, offer them opportunities they might not otherwise have, such as virtual dissections, distance learning, etc. Technology is not a substitute for teachers, but can be a useful supplement.



Brian Paone said...

Cool! Looking forward to the ACT info. Even if it is just another statistic. ;-)

On the iPads:

The reason I bring that up is because I think it would be a rather expensive mistake to put an iPad SPECIFICALLY into the "hands of every student".

First off, those things are EXPENSIVE. I like shiny overpriced tech toys as much as the next American, but it's one thing for one person to spend their own money on just one device and another entirely to spend everyone's tax dollars on a high-end social status item that only benefits families with kids that receive 'em.

Second, an iPad is a remarkably restrictive device as far as gadgets go. No expandable memory, CPUs that are now either obsolete (iPad, iPad2) or run far too hot to be a practical long-term teaching aid ("new" iPad), and even the older generations are flashing some painful-looking price tags (the iPad2 has been labeled as "affordable" starting at $399 - affordable for who, exactly?).

Finally, the iPad currently enjoys a rather high social status. Sooner or later, some kid's going to get theirs stolen because of that. There are, unfortunately, still parts of Knoxville and Knox County where people live that look at kids carrying expensive toys and see easy money.

I do like the idea of the kids having tablets of some kind, though I'd prefer them to be Android tablets with expandable memory. These tend to be much more cost-effective, and the open-source nature of Android offers the opportunity to teach children how a computer's operating system really works - something that cannot be done, I'd like to note, with Windows or Apple as both operating systems are proprietary and generally not open to public purview.

I'm looking forward to a detailed review of how that money plans to be spent.