My household also received two Fake Rob Britt letters – both with no return address and two different handwriting styles that do not match Mr. Ball’s envelope. Boy, Fake Rob Britt sure gets around I guess. It is rather disappointing to see our tax dollars used to fund tax lobbying efforts to take more of our tax dollars. Even the county school web sites are in on the tax increase lobby game. We are paying for those too.
Well, the approach is new, but the information is tired. I have previously debunked the “Exemplary” district claim here, showing that for starters, the “exemplary” rating is only a measure of greatest improvement in score, not a measure of actual scores. I also showed how of these 21 “Exemplary” school systems, 18 districts spend “below the state average”, so “exemplary” doesn’t seem to correlate with spending more money. This seems to be the holy grail for Blount County schools. If only they had more money…uh I mean “resources”, just imagine what they could do! At least that is the idea that Fake Rob Britt espouses.
The new claim for this round of tax-payer-funded tax increase lobbying is that Blount County schools is the 16th largest district in the state and only 28.6% of the county property tax revenue is distributed to the schools. Well, that may be true, but that is only part of the picture. You see, property taxes are only a portion of the County tax revenue. Remember sales taxes? Fake Rob Britt is intentionally leaving that out for you. If you’ll take a look at the latest adopted Blount County budget here, you can see on page 33 that the total County estimated revenue is $164,130,310. Pages 110-135 show all of the appropriations of County revenue that go to the County school system – not including capital improvements like new construction. That total is $80,100,000. That’s 48.8% of all county tax revenue being distributed to schools. This is very close to the state tax revenue percentage. Last time I checked, approximately 45% of all state-level tax revenue was distributed to public education. So, no matter how you slice it, approximately half of every dollar of property taxes and sales taxes you pay go to public schools. If you’ll do a little studying on pages 110-135 of the County budget and only count the amounts going to salaries and benefits, you will also see that nearly 84% of the $80,100,000 distributed to the County school system is spent on salaries and benefits. If you take a look at Fake Rob Britt’s new proposed budget (which he calls “zero growth”) they work in $2.9 MILLION in salary and benefit raises. I guess 84% of the budget just wasn’t enough.
Of course, if you listen to Fake Rob Britt and the other tax lobbying agents’ appeal “for the children” here, you would think the only things that could be cut are chairs, school buses, textbooks, the school nurse and guidance counselors. And of course, the classrooms will go from 23 students to 35 students. Are you scared enough to vote for a tax increase yet?
Well, what about that $8,701 per student per year we are spending in Blount County and always wanting more so we can meet the state average? Take a look at how this number has fared over the last several years:
|Academic Year||Spending ($/student)||Number of students||Number of teachers||student/teacher ratio|
|*=Total professional staff|
|% increase of students since 2000:||-0.4|
|% increase of spending since 2000:||62.7|
|% increase of teachers since 2000:||17.38|
These numbers all come from the state Report Card website. Keep in mind these numbers represent the County schools’ expenditures, but do not include capital improvements, like new school additions or construction. I thought it might be interesting to compare this year’s budget to 1999-2000. This was when the rash of new school construction was first under way – and we were on our way to today’s quarter-billion in variable rate demand option debt. The figures in red show you the difference between then and now. We have a lower student population, 17.38% more employees teaching less students and we are spending 62.7% more to teach less students. Plus, we are a quarter-billion in debt. Look at the teacher/student ratio. We would have to fire half the teachers to get to 30:1. Why haven’t the Blount County Schools experienced the unemployment rate that all their neighbors they ask to pay them have? Unemployed folk do not generate a lot of sales tax revenue. Neither do foreclosed properties generate property taxes. Fake Rob Britt claims that the County schools have been cutting a lot of money out of the budget over the last several years, including before the “great recession”. As you can see, Blount County school spending has increased every single year for the last 16 years. You want to claim to have made “budget cuts”, while you have spending increases every year? You acknowledge the recession and loss of tax revenue, yet spent more money every single year!
Blount County schools don’t need more money. They need to study their neighbors:
You can send a student to Maryville Christian School for less than $7,400 per year. A 15% savings over Blount County!
You can send a student to The King’s Academy in Seymour (lunch included) for $6,950 per year. A 20% savings over Blount County!
And Blount County is asking for more?
Think about this. If Blount County could just let go of the federal dollars and get to where MCS and TKA are currently operating in a free market, all the Common Core garbage goes away and they could have their freedom back.
A letter, by Director of Schools Rob Britt, arrived in my mail box earlier this week. Others are getting them as well. There is no return address on the envelope and the letter does not say who paid for the letter. It leaves me wondering if we taxpayers paid for it, since it bears Rob Britt’s name. Mr. Britt should tell the public who paid for it, since it was apparently written by him.
There’s no postage on the envelope, although there is a zip code stamping. I don’t know if this was placed in my mail box by my postal courier or if it was delivered by someone who is not a postal employee. If it’s the latter, they would first have to trespass as I live on a private drive, and then illegally place the letter inside my mail box. If the former, does someone within the schools have connections within the local post offices to mail letters for free?
Comment: I received an email telling me that Mayor Bickers may be posturing to run Mayor after he takes Kenneth Meltons seat on the Commission in 2014.
What this free for a short time.
Car buffs appreciate the subtle visual evolution of automotive features over time—from rooflines, to side view mirrors or taillights, every successive design tweak is studied and critiqued.
A great example of this ongoing refinement comes from the humble speedometer. This website charts the evolution of Chevrolet speedometer designs from 1941 through 2011. A quick review will bring back memories for many readers—some pleasant and some not so pleasant. With its maximum 85 mph speed limit, the speedometer from the 1985 Chevrolet Silverado falls squarely into the latter category.
For years most speedometers topped out at 120 mph. But in 1980, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated that speedometers could only go up to 85 mph, even though vehicles could travel faster. The idea was the brainchild of then NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook, who thought that lower speedometer numbers would discourage drivers from pushing their cars to the limits. And while the mandate only lasted for two years, Claybrook hasn’t given up.
Thirty years later, she continues to rail against auto manufacturers for putting higher and higher limits on speedometers. In this recent article she blames the manufacturers for using the allure of speed to sell more cars: “‘They think that speed sells,’ she said of automakers. ‘People buy these cars because they want to go fast.’ ” The article continues: “Claybrook concedes there’s no data to show the 85 mph limit saved lives, but she believes it did. She called the ever-higher speedometer numbers immoral.”
Claybrook is right about one thing: Auto manufacturers have been inflating speedometer numbers to make their vehicles appear more powerful. Top speedometer readings for current family cruisers can be as high as 140 mph or 160 mph. Even the tiny Toyota Yaris shows a top limit of 140 mph.
This bit of marketing sizzle may help sell a few more cars, but does it create more speed demons on our roads? When was the last time you saw a Ford Fusion screaming down the interstate at 100 mph? Or any other car for that matter?
If Claybrook truly believes responsible drivers will put themselves in harm’s way because their speedometers tell them it’s OK, she understands nothing about driver behavior. The same holds true for those who believe that raising speed limits will encourage drivers to just drive that much faster.
The truth is that posted speeds have little impact on actual travel speeds; motorists tend to drive at a speed they believe is safe and reasonable. This turns out to be the safest speed to travel and forms the basis for the 85th percentile speed limit. Put another way, responsible motorists know what a safe speed is without having to be told. (Learn more about the 85th percentile here.)
Yet, “safety advocates,” such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) refuse to acknowledge the safety benefits of the 85th percentile formula. In a recent news story covering a proposal to raise interstate speed limits in Illinois, IIHS spokesperson Russ Rader discounted 70 years of traffic engineering practice:
Rader called the 85th percentile approach “a moving target” and disputed the National Motorists Association’s claims that motorists’ speed remains relatively static when limits are raised.
As speed limits rise, studies show that drivers tend to exceed that limit by 5 to 10 mph, he said.
“People drive the speed at which they don’t think they’re likely to be stopped and ticketed,” Rader said.
Note the sophistry in that last statement. To perpetuate the myth that speed limit signs or numbers on a dial compel drivers to behave recklessly—making them care more about getting caught than their own safety—represents, at best, faulty thinking, and, at worst, a cynical attempt to push an agenda.
In either case the result is the same: the chronic under posting of speed limits leading to more accidents and higher costs for drivers. Shameful. ♦
For many months now, “limited government, free market, reduced spending, Conservative Republicans™” Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker and Bill Haslam have been lobbying for and/or sponsoring the Marketplace Fairness Act, also known by a more appropriate title: the Internet Sales Tax. The tax-raising Republicans have been touting this as the states collecting taxes “that were already theirs”, or “making it fair for the brick-and-mortar businesses located in the state”, or “restoring state sovereignty” as if this is some sort of 10th Amendment takeback from the federal government – when in reality it is just a tax increase. Their appeal to the currently popular anti-federal sentiment in the country is not only unconvincing, it is without constitutional merit. Note that they are counting you as fools to fall for this “states’ rights” language.
If these leaders truly believed in “marketplace fairness” for brick-and-mortar stores, then Tennessee would not have cut the sweetheart deal with online retailer and corporate welfare queen Amazon to locate here and not collect any sales taxes – even for sales within the state. How’s that for an unfair advantage? Nobody argues that a sale made within the state isn’t subject to state sales taxes – except for our state government and Amazon, who enjoys an unfair advantage over all the other brick-and-mortar retailers in Tennessee thanks to Governor Haslam who now claims to be interested in “marketplace fairness”. Amazon also received a 10-year, 50% tax break on property taxes to locate in Loudon County. Apparently tax revenue (or is that “fairness”?) is for sale to the highest bidder. We don’t need a new federal law to correct that.
Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution states in part:
“No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.”
The federal government cannot issue a federal tax on interstate sales. They are exports, whether to another state or another country. The federal government can however regulate interstate “commerce” or transportation of the goods between states. The states themselves do not have this power over one another. They cannot regulate interstate trade period – which is precisely why sales taxes for purchases you made in another state have not been collected. They are exports to your resident state. So the money-grubbers in the state created the “use” tax to take some of your money anyway – despite the fact that they provide zero services to the brick-and-mortar store in the other state you imported from and your “use” of the item you purchased doesn’t induce any burden on your neighbors that require additional tax revenue that isn’t covered somewhere else by another tax.
So why ask permission from the federal government? Because they have to. Article 1, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution states in part:
“No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws: and the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.”
So guess what? The states are only entitled to collecting their new Internet Sales Tax and subtracting their expenses for executing inspections of these imports/exports. The rest of the revenue is required by the U.S. Constitution to go to the U.S. Treasury. At best, Tennessee could add more cigarette gestapo agents to the state Department of Revenue. The net revenue proceeds to the states legally should be ZERO, because see, the founders really did believe in some semblance of free trade and INDEPENDENT states.
There is no “state right” to this money. There never was.