Courier Letters to the Editor 2-4-15

Analyzing the taxes list

Dear Editor,

I read with astonishment the letter published last week regarding the multitude of taxes we bear, from the Pickens County Taxpayers Association. A closer examination compelled me to respond. Instead of hitting all 61 separate taxes, I’ll group them in the interest of time.

Taxes that we don’t pay in Pickens County: This includes dog licenses, bike licenses, bike and nature permits, stadiums, soda or fatty food tax and toll roads.

Fees: On this list, there are many items that are fees, which aren’t really taxes — you are paying for a service provided. This would include a marriage license (presuming you only need one, it’s not too costly!), driver’s licenses, passports, gun permits and hunting and fishing licenses.

Optional taxes: I’m not planning to get a yacht any time soon. Other items would include plastic surgery, jewelry tax, gift tax (unless you’re getting gifts that are worth more than $14,000 a year), alcohol and cigarette taxes.

Income taxes: No one likes to pay income tax. It’s the price of being a citizen of the United States of America. However, let’s keep to the point; we are talking about funding education in Pickens County. Not one cent of income tax goes to fund our schools. Also, if you are retired? You aren’t paying these taxes.

Infrastructure taxes: Roads and bridges are expensive. The more you use the roads, the more you should pay. If you buy a car that causes more strain on roads, you pay a little more. All these taxes (including the waste management taxes) go to pay for services we all use, and that costs money. And again, this doesn’t fund schools.

Property taxes: This is the primary way that we fund our schools in South Carolina. I’ve heard the argument that the state should pay their part. Our own representative told the school board that unless we invested in our own schools, it would be hard for the state to see reason to help. Out of the 139 school districts in South Carolina, we are 123rd in per-student spending. We are in the bottom 13 percent.

And if you, the PCTA, still feel that investing in the school district is not your problem and you’re retired, you can get an exemption, as you point out on your own website.

The bottom line is this — of the 61 taxes and fees listed (many of which don’t apply to this county), only one helps fund schools.

If we choose to not invest in our schools with a small increase in the mil rate (which has gone down more in the past decade than it has gone up), we are not only cheating our children, we are cheating the teachers and the communities. We are cheating everyone. A good school district attracts good citizens and businesses. I’m willing to make that investment in my community, because I love Pickens County. Do you?

Christine Prado


Saitta weighs in on taxes

Dear Editor,

I am responding to the letter from Tom O’Hanlan (leader of Manufacturers Caring For Pickens County), where he wrote Pickens County schools need a tax increase to restore funding to 2007 levels.

Reading Mr. O’Hanlan’s letter, I can tell he hasn’t examined the financial statements of the school district. Likely, he is just repeating what Concerned Citizens of Pickens County spokeswoman Robin Nelson Miller has written numerous times, which is untrue.

Concerned Citizens of Pickens County falsely claims, “The local tax contribution in Pickens County has been in steady decline since 2007, and today, it is approximately $5 million less than seven years ago. Costs have increased. Local funding has decreased.”

All you have to do is look at the school district’s financial audits of 2007 and 2014 to see that is untrue. Local funding for the district’s general fund is up from $34.7 million in 2007 to $41.7 million in 2014. For the debt fund, local funding is up from $7.3 million in 2007 to $23.5 million in 2014. Local funding is up, not down.

The district spent $387 million to build seven new schools and renovate the other 20 schools, all locally funded by a massive property tax increase. Just drive by the new high schools, with all their acreage, massive square footage and 24-7-365 lighting, and you’ll see why they cost $45 million to $60 million to build. Gosh, just the football stadiums alone were $3 million each. The money just didn’t fall out of the sky.

In 2007, the average teacher salary was $44,000. Today, that figure is close to $50,000. Retirement, medical and workers compensation costs are much higher today. How do O’Hanlan and Miller think those increases are being paid for, bake sales? Tax revenue is up.

In the end, both Miller and O’Hanlan lead liberal organizations both advocating another 13-mill tax increase for Pickens County schools over the next five years. That increase would follow the 40-mill increase for schools the last few years. We can’t tax and spend enough in their opinion.

Alex Saitta

School board trustee