District Tax for County Schools: Will it Fly?

On Tuesday August 16th the Orange County Commissioners will make a decision about how to address the funding disparity between our two school systems. The current plan is to put a district tax on the ballot this fall, and let county school district voters decide for themselves.

According to the Chapel Hill News, the entire Orange County School Board opposes this referendum. And County Commissioner Moses Carey says "Obviously, what the school board thinks is important, but we won't base our decision solely on what they think."

Should the commissioners assume that the county school board is the voice of the people and abandon the referendum, or should they take the attitude that this is an activist school board that may not reflect the will of the people, and go forth with the referendum?

According to school board member Randy Copeland, the proposal will "put a tax on those who can least afford it." Fiscal conservatives want to leave things as is.

Several county school board members offered a counter-proposal to the tax idea: lower the city schools special tax, raise the overall property tax and hand out more money to the county schools.

Hough said she hoped that arrangement would raise the overall tax enough so that Chapel Hill's "sandbox" doesn't get "sullied or rearranged."

Copeland didn't share the concern and said commissioners should call on the city schools to "end their wasteful ways."

"I don't have problem with messing up Chapel Hill's sandbox," he said. "It's all our tax dollars."
- Chapel Hill News, 8/2/05

Complicating matters, a tiny blurb appearing in the August 10th Chapel Hill News reports that, if the commissioners decide against the district tax, they will put an alternative referendum on the ballot this fall. This alternative referendum will ask “voters countywide to decide on a new countywide property tax that would give both school systems more money.” (Sorry no link found, CHN 8/10/05)

What do people think about this district tax referendum and the alternative referendum?




...since its the CHCCS special tax that imposes the lowered per student expenditure upon the OCS schools

This is completely false. The CHCCS disrict tax in no way limits the ad valorem tax. I have confirmed several times that the BOCC could have fully taxed via the ad valorem to fund the OCS request and even gone as far as the same CHCCS per pupil. But the BOCC apparently does not believe that this has broad support in OCS. No matter how often this fallacy is repeated in a Karl Rovian manner, it does not make this fallacy true. This is about local control.

But we should accept the financial burden.

I am not opposed to paying into a higher ad valorem in liueu of part of a city district tax. Nor am I opposed to paying into a county pot that gets distributed on an equal per pupil basis, even if it funds OCS more than CHCCS. And I don't think others are either - we are all in the same county. But these are not the fundamental issues here. You are overlooking the fact that it is OCS residents who will bear the brunt of the tax increase no matter how this is done and it is *not* the CHCCS folks who should be deciding on OCS taxation.

What I don't understand is why those CHCCS parents who equate more money with the essence of a quality education, don't simply put their children into private schools instead of undermining the premise of “public” education that is affordable and equitable for all students.

Most CHCCS parents believe in public schools and choose to pay higher taxes to fund the schools. OCS can choose to tax the same.

Mark and Charlie,

I disagree with you both. Fortunately I know that you both have good hearts. I just think you don't understand what it is like to be poor. Should our public schools meet the needs of our wealthiest parents or the needs of our most (economically) needy children?

I'll check again on the funding levels Mark but what you are saying is completely contrary to everything I've read and discussed with county staff.

Mark Peters wrote:

"The city district has things that reduce its tax base, such as UNC, the hospital, etc."

Ummm---I thought UNC didn't pay property taxes...And I thought the hospital didn't either(as it is part of the UNC system)...(correct me if I'm wrong.)

Now, folks WORKING at UNC probably buy stuff in town, and eat out and such, but I don't believe UNC pays property taxes.



I suggest that you call Rod Visser and ask the following questions:

1) During the budget cycle, do the county commissioners have the statuatory authority to raise the ad valorem tax enough to raise the same per pupil in OCS as CHCCS?

2) Do the county commissioners have the statuatory authority to set the CHCCS DT to zero?


“The city district has things that reduce its tax base, such as UNC, the hospital, etc.”

Ummm—I thought UNC didn't pay property taxes

Correct. UNC does not pay property taxes, which is my point. This reduces the city district tax base in the same manner that land conservation does in the county district. There is a lot of rhetoric used instead of using actual tax revenue values. I was merely pointing out that both districts have situations where property is not taxed.

Following the school merger /taxation debate helps me understand how we are in Iraq with no WMDs and no good reason to be there.
Elected officials willing to spin to the point of lying and a complacent media lead to massive disinformation..

fallicies that will lead to disappointed .

1... there is a free ride for county residents if they don't tax themselves. Wrong - in the short term there is about a 1 penny benefit when tax is collected county wide ..In the long term the county projects that it shifts 1 penny the other direction...

The FREE RIDE taxation has been pushed quietly by members of the OC school board and is the WMDs that won't be found. There is no way school funding will be flat for 3 years. the tax will be the same.

2. the poor county protects our rural buffer and other nonproductive lands at their own expense... wrong.. for school funding the only relevant numbers are how much does a penny in taxes generate and how many school children are there. the numbers for either system using this metric are similar. Given that school funding is half the budget this is an important metric. (by the way I would hope even Terri B. would appreciate that being surrounded by a rural buffer has some value if not economical at least spiritual to the residents.)

the truth is the chicken OC school members don't have the cajones to lead their residents to taxation and re-election at the same time.

don't be surprised if a countywide tax fails too....


My bad. I shouldn't post when I've been outside gardening in the 90+° heat. OF COURSE that's what you said!



Motion to call special referendum for an OCS district tax at a rate not to exceed 10 cents passed 4 to 1.

Wow! I did not expect this.
Who, in your opinion, made the convincing argument to put the tax on the ballot?


I think that they all came to the same conclusion and had similar reasons why. I got the sense that they individually struggled before the meeting to figure out whether a countywide or OCS was the better solution. The main point of discussion was the max amount.

Halkiotis' question to the attorney about the countywide supplemental tax "hostage" issues and John Link's strong comments on the ad valorem not being feasible was probably the most persuasive to move to some kind of tax and that the OCS DT afforded more control. I think that the commissioners wanted the OCS board to bear some of the responsibility for setting the taxes and the OCS DT was the cleanest from that perspective.

The commissioners were not happy with the OCS BOE comments in the paper about the CHCCS system/BOE, nor were they happy with the letters/comments in the press given that OCS got 92% of their budget increase request last year as well as retired Cedar Ridge debt.

Anyway, these comments are all speculation on my part.


PS - Did anyone else notice that the CH News said Liz Brown was chair of the OCS BOE on Sunday? Turns out she is not and has never been chair. I read in the Herald a while back that Randy Copeland was chair and called up OCS and confirmed. Then I called Mark Schultz at CHN and he said it was news to him. (That's gotta hurt.) On that note, the editorial completely missed that the OCS BOE was split between the want-lower-tax crowd and the will-only-take-merger crowd and that is what defeated the district tax. The editorial stated that the OCS BOE wanted an ad valorem and it is my understanding that they never formally stated that, but rather it was the opinion of a subset of members.

PPS - I think the courthouse was on generator power for the last half of the meeting after that lightning strike. Several power backups or something kept beeping for a long time and the lighting was less than ususal (though adequate) but gave a surreal feeling to an already surreal meeting.

...and that is what defeated the district tax...

This is in reference to when the OCS board recommended against the OCS DT last week.

I read the CHN opinion piece. Unless the OCS BOE is newly unified, it seemed like an innaccurate characterization of what the OCS BOE wants. I didn't see a Liz as chairman reference.

Any discussion by county staff or BOCC re: what happens if the OCS DT fails?

the more I think about politics at the local and national level the more I get upset at our media.

Reading the local newspapers you'd have no idea about the complexity of the Orange school board.

Last night one school board member took a big slap at liz brown and said the county schools have enough funding..

Another school board member's wife said the county schools have money floating around..

You'd never know there's more than one opinion (and polar opposites I'd suggest) if you relied on our local papers for news..

Was newspaper reporting always this shoddy? It's not like there is so much local news for the county that they can't spare the column space.

any journalists/reporters out there that have any thoughts?

I particularly liked Halkiotis' comments about school boards attacking each other (only Orange as far as I can tell) and how the scorched earth, name calling, and dysinformation campaign by the OCS board may have, backfired.

Two (cents?) comments:

One thing that makes the OC School Board different from the CH/C School Board is that they speak for themselves whereas quite often Neil Pedersen speaks for the CH/C board.

As a county resident, I am pleased that we will have the opportunity for a democratic vote.

Wow. A lightning strike, and then a 4-1 vote for a referendum on a district tax.

Who ever said lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place?

How big of a turnout do you think will be needed to constitute "democratic" vote, Mark?

The BOCC is not acting in the best interest of either district scheduling a referendum vote 1) at such at late date, 2) when there are no other Orange County races on the ballot, and 3) during a local only election (notoriously low turnout). In 2003, the Town of Cary had a 10% turnout of a local bond referendum. Is 10% of County resident sufficient for this to be considered a 'democratic' decision? Recognizing the problem of low voter turnout, the Wake County is now experimenting with Vote By Mail. They at least recognize that democracy depends on citizen participation in the electoral process. BTW, Cary's 2003 election costs were $46,744.12.

Terri -

if the entire orange school board lobbies against it - some as republicans who don't want any tax increase at all - why would it matter what the turnout is..

IMHO the pro-mergerites are now in a bad position of watching support for taxation -IF absent - smack them hard or have to explain that their schools really do need more funds and the citizens should support the tax, or worse say they were just joking and the schools really don't need money that badly.

Like it or not, voting on an issue is the most direct democratic process. The other issues about turn-out, etc. are separate & no reason to not go ahead and have a vote.

If one person turns out, that is a democratic vote. In fact, if nobody turns out its is still democratic. Free will, etc.

By the way, the Orange County Commissioners are always elected in the Democratic primary by a very small percentage of voters.

actually Terri, there was vote by mail legislation introduced for this May's Cary/Apex bond referendum, but it did not pass, and it was conducted the usual way with a turnout of about 5%.


If they care enough, they will vote. If they DON'T care enough to vote, then they must abide by the decisions made by those that get off their backsides and go to the polls. I have NO patience for whining by those that choose not to exercise their franchise.

I'm certain there will be adequate publicity regarding the tax--this isn't a "stealth" campaign.

This isn't Florida. If people CHOOSE TO VOTE they will be allowed to do so.


Sorry Melanie, but I (vehemently) disagree. People learn through repetition. They learn from hearing what others think. They learn from understanding the context in which a decision must be made. Now OC voters will have to already be tuned into this issue because it won't be coming up in any other context. Voting is a habit and we know the residents of Orange County do not have the habit. Blame them all you like, but a vote for or against this referendum has long term impacts that should be UNDERSTOOD by everyone. This isn't just about education. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but this referendum reaches out into affordable housing, economic development, property values, sustainable development, etc. etc.

I find it reprehensible that we wouldn't choose to structure an important vote so as to ensure full understanding and participation.

strategically Terri I would think low voter turnout would favor those that want more taxes..

In the presidential election of 2004 (would you agree as high a turnout as you'd expect?) Bush carried the county vote...

something like 52% of the vote for Bush in the county.

In contrast, Kerry got 70% of the vote in CHCCS.

You are wrong strategy wise low voter turnout gives Passing TAxes the best hope. However, that means the libbie houghs and liz brown's need to motivate their supporters to vote as they did for them in the school board race.

on the bright side even though there were 17 op ed letters in the CH news trashing school taxes motivated by liz brown et al. - it is my understanding that the chapel hill news is not delivered to the door of a single non CHCCS jurisdiction county member (or not much of the county gets home delivery of the CH news.)


We are going to have to agree to disagree. It's not like this vote is going to happen SEPTEMBER 8th--it will be NOVEMBER 8th. That gives each side, what--just short of three months to "educate" people? This issue has been floating around for MUCH longer--so I believe OC voters ARE already "tuned in".

I think turnout may be higher than you expect. We are talking about a "pocket book" issue here, after all.


How big of a turnout do you think will be needed to constitute “democratic” vote

Democracy is the opportunity to vote. It is up to the citizens to exercise that right.

Increasing OCS funding is not a new topic by any means.

I didn't see a Liz as chairman reference.

I was out of town and read the online version, which (as of writing this), still states: "Editor's note: The writer is chairwoman of the OCS school board."

When I called CHN to ask about it, I was told that they thought Liz was chair, which is basically as misinformed as their Sunday editorial.

Idiots. Don't they bother with FACT CHECKING over there?

If it weren't free I probably wouldn't get it--though I DO appreciate CHN's extensive police blotter. EVER-so-informative if one is parenting a teen...


"What a shame it would be if the commissioners decide to rush something onto the ballot for fall."

Rushing? We've been seriously discussing the funding disparity between the two districts for almost 2 years and nothing had been done about it until now!! (Except for Alice Gordon trying to raise the ad valorem tax slightly in June 2004 to provide extra funds for OCS which wasn't seconded and therefore died on the table. Val Foushee was not on the BOCC at that time, by the way) I say it is time to move forward on this issue and thank the BOCC for making a decision. If the tax is voted down, at least the question of what the OCS residents want on this matter will FINALLY be answered by them instead of by everyone else speculating. After the Nov. vote, we can take the next step, whatever that may be.

It would be great if we had a law to limit cities and counties from scheduling these tax and bond votes during off periods. These kind of votes should be taken during November or May elections in even years. By setting up these votes in off times these elected bodies are desiring a certain outcome and our Commissioners are no different. There will be 3 commission seats up next May and it would appear none of the incumbents want to run with this issue on the ballot. Nevermind if they had waited and got together with one or both school boards and tried to work something out on the tax issue. Instead what we got was talking through the press, comments from each elected board (minus the CHCCS)in their respected meetings, and a letter or two sent. Where is the leadership in all of this???

I look forward to a vote on this issue because it is time to put up or shut up.

From HS this morning:
“Brown said she doesn't think the referendum will pass because it will face opposition on two fronts.
"Real progressives who want more money for schools are going to vote no because we know it's not going to help us," Brown said.
And people who don't want more taxes also won't vote for it, she said. “

So what did we get Tuesday night—a compromise DT referendum that satisfies no one? Is the point of the DT referendum to let us know if OCS BOE opinion accurately reflects public opinion?

Are OCS progressives assuming (and is it an accurate assumption) that when the DT fails, the BOCC will use the authority it already has to bring funding closer together?

No. Assuming that if it fails both anti-tax and tax advocates can say see we told you so...

As if putting a 35 cent tax on the ballot would pass when a 10 cent won't.

Then the undemocratic vocal minority on the county school board can safely run for re-election - having done nothing to change anything - either for school board or county commissioner..

the commissioners would be stupid to put a tax increase on themselves ... If I were BOCC I would tell the orange county school board to vote a tax increase proposal they are willing to put on the ballot.

Educational funding, based on property values, is regressive, whether its in Chapel Hill/Carrboro or in the county. Adding to an already injust system, whether through the proposal of the OCSB or the BOCC referendum decision, should be a major topic of debate during the 2007 campaign season. The Chapel Hill Finance director told me that property values in Northside increased by 40% this year as a result of the new condos going up on Rosemary Street (the tax assessor looks at surrounding properties to estimate current value). Social justice, economic self-interest, affordable housing, and educational funding are all wrapped up in a single, inseparable cocoon. Thd whole discussion of educational funding, ad valorum, district tax, lottery, needs to be addressed but NOT as a game of political chicken

And I would add that military funding is wrapped up with it all as well.

If we don't tax for the schools based on property value, what formula do you suggest, Terri ? Virtually every tax system will have regressive components.

If you go to an entirely income based model, you take out factors like age. A couple in their fifties, for example, may have relatively high earning power, but have two kids in college and retirement in the very near future, by taxing them at higher rates, you end up pushing them toward poverty in retirement. They end up in a position that they are taxed out of their homes when their income becomes fixed.

Unfortunately when my computer crashed, I lost all my bookmarks on alternative school financing options but I shared many of them during the merger debates if you want to do a search on this site.

Local governments have only three options for collecting revenue: ad valorem, sales, and licensing/fees. So a local solution is limited to property or income (fees are one or the other although there are some flat fees, such as animal control). Orange has the special dispensation from the legislature to impose impact fees on new construction. Without that, this debate would be a magnitude louder. I wish I had a solution to offer, but I don't.

My point is that we are asking the wrong questions. The question shouldn't be how does OCS get as much as CHCCS has. The question should be how does this county distribute its wealth equitably--across education, housing, law enforcement, environmental protection, etc. As long as the question continues to be on tit for tat funding between the two districts, we are having a discussion on the market value of schooling rather than equitable quality of life. And then we need to ask whether those outcomes should apply only to Orange County or whether they should be applied statewide (see Leandro). Katrina's home state of Texas has the Robinhood law, where funds are collected on (local) property and distributed equitably across the state. Ultimately, I think NC should consider something similar although I hate the idea of doing anything like Texas.

There was a brief discussion on the role of socioeconomic status on education. Below is an excerpt from a speech by David Berliner (one of my favorite educational researchers). The full article provides data to support (one of) his premise that "among the lowest social classes environmental factors, particularly family and neighborhood influences, not genetics, is strongly associated with academic performance. Among middle class students it is genetic factors, not family and neighborhood factors, that most influences academic performance."

The Basic Problem of Poverty and Educational Reform
It seems to me that in the rush to improve student achievement through accountability systems relying on high-stakes tests, our policy makers and citizens forgot, or cannot understand, or deliberately avoid the fact, that our children live nested lives. Our youth are in classrooms, so when those classrooms do not function as we want them to, we go to work on improving them. Those classrooms are in schools, so when we decide that those schools are not performing appropriately, we go to work on improving them, as well. But both students and schools are situated in neighborhoods filled with families. And in our country the individuals living in those school neighborhoods are not a random cross section of Americans. Our neighborhoods are highly segregated by social class, and thus, also segregated by race and ethnicity. So all educational efforts that focus on classrooms and schools, as does NCLB, could be reversed by family, could be negated by neighborhoods, and might well be subverted or minimized by what happens to children outside of school. Improving classrooms and schools, working on curricula and standards, improving teacher quality and fostering better use of technology are certainly helpful. But sadly, such activities may also be similar to those of the drunk found on his hands and knees under a street lamp. When asked by a passerby what he was doing, the drunk replied that he was looking for his keys. When asked where he lost them, the drunk replied “over there,” and pointed back up the dark street. When the passerby then asked the drunk why he was looking for the keys where they were located, the drunk answered “the light is better here!”

Many of us OCS residents oppose a separate OCS district tax for several reasons:

1. It won't guarantee more funding for our schools. Every year the BOCC chooses to fund both school systems at the lower of the two districts' "per pupil" request, which is always Chapel Hill's request. (Theirs is lower than OCS's because they can rely on a hefty 30 percent more funding from their district tax.) If city and county property-tax bases were even-Steven, and if both district taxes had equivalent caps, this shouldn't be a problem. But neither is true: Our cap would be 10 cents, and our property-tax values are 10 percent lower than the city district's prop values.
2. The commissioners refused to raise property taxes another 3.5 cents this year, which would have fully funded our school board's budget. What makes anyone believe they would actually levy this school tax, even if our school board requested it?
3. The district tax could become a supplanting device. Every time CHCCS requests an increase in its district tax, the "per pupil" for the county will decrease, and our district tax would have to go up just to keep us static. That's not increasing, it's shifting the burden from the ad valorem to the district tax, which will cost county taxpayers (10 percent) more than if we relied solely on the ad valorem to fund our schools. (And with a 10 cent cap, how unfair is that?)

I wish this were a simpler issue. I used to support a district tax for OCS, until I began to see the whole county picture. Our school funding is joined at the hip with the city's. And benefits like OWASA water and green space take a bite ouf of our tax base. (UNC doesn't pay taxes directly, but wouldn't the tables be turned if it were in Hillsborough instead of in Chapel Hill? It's an economic machine...)

Regarding the "wealth" issue: Our student-poverty (Federal free-and-reduced-lunch) rate is 30 percent, double that of the city schools. Surely that's more significant than discussing which school district has wealthier residents. Our schools have more needy students; we need more funding than we have now.

We shouldn't be asking whether Orange County residents can afford more for their schools, but instead ask if we value all students equally in Orange County. Then we should all step up to the plate and pay for all students. (Our budget didn't request the same funding as CHCCS; we don't need the same amount right now.) Again, if the commissioners want to know if county residents are willing to pay more for their schools, they should find a way to ask them. Putting a district tax on a ballot isn't asking that question. //Liz Brown


As one of the more well-funded school districts in the state, I am curious as to what you would do with additional funding wherever it comes from. You know the choices CHCCS has made with their additional funding. How would the OCS choices be similar? be different?

Let's suppose we did equalize funding-- or merge-- then what? Would we end up with one system of institutionalized privilege-- instead of two? Unfortunatley, I think we would still leave all the same children behind. My question for you is, how do we really help the children who need our help most? Do we ultimately need a strong state mandate that gives at-risk children opportunities of privilege over 13+ years?

Masie said:

The city schools get the lottery money ... the city district reduces its county funding requests because it has the district tax.

Mike Kelley (CHCCS board member speaking for himself) indicated earlier that this was not the case:

CHCCS never requests an increase in our district tax. We look at the educational needs of our students and formulate a budget to meet those needs as best possible. The local budget request does not have separate requests for the ad valorum and district taxes; this is determined by the commissioners.

The commissioners could have fully funded and even overfunded the OCS request this June. The commissioners have the full statutory authority to raise the ad valorem to 150 cents per $100 valuation (that is, they have the authority to basically double the current ad valorem rate). Thus, they have full statutory authority to raise the ad valorem the 18 cents of the city district tax, if they thought that is what OCS voters want, and set the city district to zero. This notion that CHCCS somehow harms OCS via the budget request process is completely bogus and is exactly the "doublespeak, inneundo. and disingenuous discussions" that you earlier said that you loathe.

On another point you have made, I have not seen it substantiated that OCS has insufficient wealth to pay for the tax increases that will be necessary to increase OCS funding. The proportion of property is fairly close to the proportion of students.

I do think that it would be interesting to compare the taxation effects of using income and other factors in lieu of or in combination with the ad valorem tax.


What makes anyone believe they would actually levy this school tax, even if our school board requested it?

It is my understanding that the commissioners will use the OCS DT vote to affirm that the majority of OCS residents prefer to pay more taxes to fund the schools. They have to face re-election, so if they doing something as untoward as lowering the schools percentage below the current percentage of the ad valorem, then they will face the will of the people at their next run at elected office or as they continue to live in our community and keep the respect of citizens if they choose not to run.

And benefits like OWASA water and green space take a bite ouf of our tax base.

This is rhetoric. Let's hear how the tax base ratio of OCS compares to the student ratio. Students can't live in OWASA nor the green space, so while they don't bring in taxes, neither do they increase the number of students. An enormous amount of property held by UNC is not taxed either, which likely represents many, many times more taxable property than the areas you mentioned. How much are UNC and UNC Hospitals buildings worth that aren't being taxed? A billion dollars?

UNC doesn't pay taxes directly, but wouldn't the tables be turned if it were in Hillsborough instead of in Chapel Hill? It's an economic machine…)

Property taxes fund the schools. UNC doesn't pay property taxes. How is UNC an economic machine that funds CHCCS over OCS? So how would UNC being in Hillsborough turn the tables?

Our schools have more needy students;

The census shows that CHCCS has more poverty than OCS. And while OCS may have more needy students, it does not excuse the people who represent 35% of the taxable property in Orange County from paying their share of the taxes if they want more taxation for the schools.

What makes anyone believe they would actually levy this school tax, even if our school board requested it?

This statement is ludicrous. The commissioners would have to move out of the county if this happened (figuratively).

We shouldn't be asking whether Orange County residents can afford more for their schools ...

You're right! We should be asking if OCS residents would rather spend their money on taxes or on something else. That is what this vote is about. Local control and the right to make sure that this is not a situation where a vocal minority could potentially be misinterpreted as a majority.

Our budget didn't request the same funding as CHCCS; we don't need the same amount right now.

Which is exactly why the cap is at 10 cents and is why the commissioners commented that it could be raised with another vote at a future date. Their comments about the OCS history on school construction bond votes were right on. They have legitimate reasons not to make the cap too high initially.

they should find a way to ask them.

Which is what they are trying to do. What other way do they have the statutory authority to do? The state has the BOCC on a very short leash when it comes to ballot questions, since we are a Dillons rule state. So what way do you suggest that the BOCC ask the voters?

The commissioners granted less than half of our request, while (yet again) fully funding the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools budget request [Liz Brown, Chapel Hill Herald, 8/9/2005]

From onelook.com: "fully: to the greatest degree or extent; completely or entirely". In the past 18 years, CHCCS was funded fully only once, in 2002-2003 (comment by Lisa Stuckey, CHCCS BOE chair, BOCC Meeting 8/16/2005)

If this fails, then the commissioners can keep the status quo and I think that would certainly go against your goal of higher OCS taxation for increased OCS funding, particularly given that you are okay with a staged approach (based on comments above and your public comments). Is your opposition the last pawn in some scheme to push for merger?

I need to preface my comments by saying the CHCCS board last discussed related issues in 2003 at which time a resolution supporting an OCS district tax was adopted. Perhaps it goes without saying but anything I say here is my personal view and not that of the board.

Liz said:

"We shouldn't be asking whether Orange County residents can afford more for their schools, but instead ask if we value all students equally in Orange County. "

I struggle with this statement. Valuing a child is not determined by how much money one spends on the child. Do I value my children less than my neighbor who sends their children to private schools? Does Orange County value children more than the rest of North Carolina? Does North Carolina value children less than most of the other states in the nation? My wife buys many of our children's clothes at the PTA store. Do we value our children less than those who buy their children's clothes only at department stores? Or do these differences reflect qualitative differences in priorities?

When the commissioners set the funding level for this year, I did not hear an explanation or rationale from them about why they chose the funding level they did. (Though I am grateful for the high level of support for education throughout Orange County.) If anyone is aware of such an explanation, please share. I suspect from indirect evidence that the commissioners estimated the level of funding that the citizenry would support. I wonder if the commissioners were to commit to fully funding the school board's budget request (say, beginning after the next school board election) if that would not be as direct and also a recurring indication of the will of the citizens as a district tax vote.

Liz said:

Every time CHCCS requests an increase in its district tax, the “per pupil” for the county will decrease, and our district tax would have to go up just to keep us static.

CHCCS never requests an increase in our district tax. We look at the educational needs of our students and formulate a budget to meet those needs as best possible. The local budget request does not have separate requests for the ad valorum and district taxes; this is determined by the commissioners.
I have repeatedly inquired whether any action we take in CHCCS has an adverse effect on OCS and have always received the same negative reply. Dr. Grumet stated this explicitly when she presented the Educational Excellence Report to our board.
Perhaps there is some reason that the commissioners would not be able to raise the ad valorum tax rather than the district tax(es) but I have never heard anything but contrary statements from county staff.

what does cutting off your nose to spite your face mean?

Is it saying the schools need more money but then opposing the most likely means of getting that money the quickest?

Liz Brown said "2. The commissioners refused to raise property taxes another 3.5 cents this year, which would have fully funded our school board's budget. What makes anyone believe they would actually levy this school tax, even if our school board requested it?"

first of all you don't know until you try ..
Second of all you know the commissioners would be much happier levying school taxes that a school board asks for so the "credit" for the tax increase lies with the school board. In general the commissioners levy close to what the chccs school board asks so there is no reason to assume it would be any different.

this is a circular loop or double talk...

Liz brown said .."Regarding the “wealth” issue: Our student-poverty (Federal free-and-reduced-lunch) rate is 30 percent, double that of the city schools. Surely that's more significant than discussing which school district has wealthier residents. Our schools have more needy students; we need more funding than we have now.

We shouldn't be asking whether Orange County residents can afford more for their schools, but instead ask if we value all students equally in Orange County. Then we should all step up to the plate and pay for all students."

so as some of the commissioners have said we need to be careful about raising taxes for schools because not everyone can afford it but lets ignore that and raise taxes by any other means by people who know less about the county than the school board.

By your logic the OCS board should just get a 35 cent tax on the ballot so all your arguments fall by the wayside... Are there 4 votes for a 35 cent district tax (ala chapel hill/carrboro) on the school board?
In the end the county schools must not really need the money... Is this school merger taxation agenda a part of a large psychological study that no one besides 3 or 4 county school board members knows about?

Terri, our school board will be faced with tough decisions this year, which the city schools have already said they're lucky they won't have to make, because they're happy with their funding amount. We were hoping to hire additional social workers, reading tutors for middle and high, curriculum specialists in central office (which the Grumet report concurred we needed), fulltime IB coordinator, money for kids to take AP tests, 4 teachers for "High School Academies" to help our at-risk 9th graders, classroom supplies, textbooks (In several classes, high schoolers can't take science textbooks home because there's only one set, which remains in the classroom), and etc, many more items. You can see our budget "expansion" items at the OCS website, or come to our meeting and watch us agonize over what items to cut. Thanks for asking.

Mary, I believe all students in the state deserve equal funding, except for the "disadvantaged students" (often poor, and/or urban, plus certain other criteria), who need even more. Yes, across the country we should be doing a more thorough and equitable job of schooling children. To base education quality on one's local property-tax values is, I believe, unfair and doesn't reach the kids who usually need even more funding. For instance, it's hard to find qualified teachers willing to teach in urban high schools, so those schools need to offer higher pay, smaller class size, etc. Those items cost money. Michigan has switched to equal funding across the state, moving the burden from property taxes to sales taxes and, I think, business taxes. I think shifting school funding to something we all pay (less regressive) like income or sales tax is far more fair than relying on property taxes. This is my hope for the future.
But to wrangle over this issue and to ignore the needs of another 2nd grader in OCS, who won't learn to read this year because of budget cuts, or to lose a 9th grader who needs more help, doesn't make sense. These are children's lives, and childhood is far too brief. The kids are growing up while we grown-ups argue over the definition of "equity" and "values."

Helena, I don't believe our district needs another tax, period. We pay the ad valorem, and that's sufficient.That should suffice for the whole county.


We can continue this discussion at the thread I started at the Squeeze The Pulp Schools Forum during the OP Holiday

"Helena, I don't believe our district needs another tax, period. We pay the ad valorem, and that's sufficient.That should suffice for the whole county.


Comment at 8:19am 8/20/2005 by Liz Brown"

the school funding and taxation is just one of many taxes that are above and beyond the county ad valorem tax.

The chapel hill (and carrboro for some taxes) have many other self imposed taxes beyond schools which you as a school board member are most concerned with.. The schools need to be looked at in the context of everything else people pay for by taxes on their property values.

1. In almost every other county in the state (including our neighbors in durham) The county funds all the libraries. However, chapel hill residents and carrborites are not happy to wait for the county to tax everyone enough so they tax themselves by democratically passing bonds to fund and build the chapel hill library.

2. In most counties the county is responsible for green space and parks.. If I recall correctly chapel hill residents voted to tax themselves to pay bonds to preserve green space and to help with the aquatic center.

3. Right now the town of chapel hill provides free rent for a county courthouse on franklin street - normally a function paid for in full by the county.

4. Chapel hill/ carrboro pay lots of taxes to have fare free transit. Perhaps some might argue that transportation should be a countywide endeavor .

the point. differential taxation districts are common in many areas of local government and while philosophically this may or may not be the best way to do things... different taxation districts for different levels of service is the norm in society.

You can be Don Quixote tilting and windmills or acknowledge and accept that different taxation zones exist for many different services in the county. For someone who has no children I'm sure green space, and libraries and easy buses to use are as or more important than school taxes.

School taxes are no different than library taxes, green space taxes, park taxes, or any other government service.
You noticed than when the chapel hill carrboro bus system was approached by DATA to merge bus systems there was a quick no thank you. hhmmm wonder why?

For all those who say CHCCS carries an equal burden on taxation because UNC/the state do not pay taxes, that's just hogwash. They may not pay property tax, but they bring in sales tax and they generate new businesses within the community. Open space does NOT generate sales tax or any special licenses/fees.

Liz--Are you saying that as one of the most well-funded districts in the state, you don't have sufficient funds to hire reading specialists or buy textbooks?

Terri - the county schools chose to have smaller class sizes in elementary school rather than offer spanish for instance.

It's how the money is budgeted and prioritized...

CHCCS schools have much larger elementary school class sizes and have similar performance to the county schools, but offer more services. This is what local control does it puts choices in the hands of the elected officials to determine curricula.

Also, UNC doesn't pay sales tax.. UNC is a non-profit and even stopped the practice of charging sales tax to grants and then getting them re-imbursed.

If Terri can provide a link showing that for 2004 after July 1 UNC pays any sales tax or property tax.

Helena--of course UNC doesn't pay sales tax. But all those employees do.

Helena–of course UNC doesn't pay sales tax. But all those employees do.

And how does that benefit CHCCS over OCS? I think those revenues are typically applied to capital & debt service and OCS actually has an advantage over CHCCS in that area, according to DPI.



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