Courier Letters to the Editor

Saitta talks pay raises


Dear Editor,

I am responding to the letter written by the senior living in Liberty on Social Security who supports raising school taxes again.

Usually the state requires school districts to give teachers an annual pay increase. In 2010 and 2011, the state gave districts the option to freeze teacher pay to deal with budget deficits. Our district cut 30 classroom teaching positions in 2009 and raised class sizes (I voted against that, by the way). In 2010, the administration proposed eliminating another 22 classroom teaching positions. The board opted instead to freeze teacher pay per the state option and protect all classroom teaching positions, keeping class sizes low. We did the same in 2011.

Some other districts did the same both years. Some other districts opted to freeze pay one year and raise class sizes a bit. And others opted to cut classroom teaching positions and gave pay raises both years. As a result, our class sizes tend to be a bit lower, and our pay a bit lower.

Since then, the board talked about narrowing the teacher pay gap, but the aftermath of the building program put a strain on the overall financial resources of the district. It is costing $18 million more a year to fund the building loan, $3 million more a year to run, clean and repair the buildings day to day, and another $5 million for roof, HVAC, computer refreshes and other capital replacements. That’s $26 million, or equal to 30 teacher annual pay raises. Now that those extra building costs are covered, the focus has shifted toward narrowing the teacher pay gap. I think we’ll have success in doing that this upcoming year.

I do not support raising tax rates to do that. While our teachers were given raises eight of the last 10 years, many taxpayers went two, three or four years without pay raises. Many business owners made little money in the 2009 to 2012 period. Even Social Security recipients didn’t receive pay raises two years. No one is coming back, giving them money to make up their losses.

So I don’t believe it is fair to say to those workers, business owners and Social Security recipients that the school board is now going to tax you more so it can give its employees the two missed pay raises. Besides, school tax rates are high enough, having risen from 128 mills in 2007 to 165.2 this year (just shy of the record high). I’d also like to keep our class sizes down. That is an advantage we give our students and teachers that shouldn’t be given up.

I do value our teachers and support narrowing that pay gap. That is, I support giving teachers their annual pay raise plus additional pay on top of that to narrow that gap. However, I believe this can be done within the growing revenue and with better budget management and setting of priorities.

Alex Saitta

School Board Trustee



We stopped the tax hike

Dear Editor,

Pickens County School Board chairman Brian Swords relayed the message the board didn’t have to raise taxes after all in a recent article in the paper.

Swords has pushed for a tax increase from the beginning.

I wonder what would have happened if Conservatives of the Upstate and the Pickens County Taxpayers Association, along with other grassroots activists, hadn’t started a petition and gained more than 2,000 signatures. We informed the local citizens there was no need for a tax hike.

We the people wrote letters to the editor; spoke frequently at the board meetings. We stood up for the taxed-enough-already citizens of Pickens County! Would the citizens now be looking at a tax increase if we hadn’t? I am positive we would.

The group known as Concerned Citizens of Pickens County, along with chairman Brian Swords, Danny Merck, Judy Edwards, Herbert Cooper, Robin Nelson Miller, Tom O’Hanlan and the other progressive cheerleaders were telling people taxes had to be raised or schools would be closed. Well now they are saying taxes aren’t going to be raised and all is well — and we should “celebrate.”

I agree. Let’s celebrate. But it is not because of anything the supporters of a tax hike did!

Progressives said taxes had to be raised to fix buildings. Progressives said taxes had to be raised or schools would be closed. Progressives said taxes had to be raised or teachers wouldn’t get extra pay raises. Progressives were wrong on all accounts.

CCPC’s progressive ideology is like the story of Chicken Little, where a chicken ran around yelling, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” It wasn’t. They just wanted more revenue out of your pocket.

That group has lost all credibility with me.

Let’s celebrate that the school board didn’t raise your taxes!

Celebrate the fact that grassroots groups like Conservatives of the Upstate and the Pickens County Taxpayers Association and grassroots activists stood up for you the taxpayer! And remain vigilant my friends — it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

Johnnelle Raines


GOP officer talks RINOs


Dear Editor,

Having the Republican Party dominate in South Carolina, as well as in Pickens County, creates a bit of a problem at times.

Liberal candidates, who would naturally run as Democrats, realize they will never win an election with a “D” next to their name in Pickens County. As a result, the Republican primary ballot is full of conservatives, moderates and liberals, and there is no Democratic primary to speak of in our county.

In the Republican primary, all candidates hang out a conservative banner. Some are genuine. Some are not. To get your vote, they all say they support the pro-growth, pro-America, pro-family and pro-life Republican platform. Once elected, though, too many pursue their true agenda, often voting more like Democrats than Republicans. For this reason, the phrase Republican in name only (RINO) is used quite often in this area with good reason.

For the last few years, the Republican Party in our county has been led by principled Republicans who adhere to the conservative party platform. Recently, though, a small coalition of liberals in our county have objected to this, saying the party must adopt a “Big Tent” approach and grow its numbers without regard to those basic principles of the platform. If you examine the histories of some of the people they tried to sign in after the deadline at the county convention, some had voted in Democratic primaries and made donations to Democratic candidates.

They mocked us for calling ourselves the “Real Republicans.” Why? We believe a Republican agrees with and works toward implementing the Republican platform as well as recruiting those who believe the same. If a person opposes implementing those basic party principles, the Republican Party is not where he belongs.

We aim to grow the Republican Party not just to increase its numbers, but by recruiting people who support the party’s pro-growth, pro-America, pro-family and pro-life principles and feel those principles will best serve our county, state and nation.

Rick Tate

First Vice Chairman

Pickens Co. Republican Party

Business owner talks Easley taxes

Dear Editor,

The last Easley City Council meeting’s first order of business was a public hearing to discuss the FY 2015-16 budget.

As a downtown Easley business owner and president of the Easley Downtown Business Association, one of the main areas of interest within the budget is the accommodations tax.

The 2 percent tax that is levied on prepared food directly affects my business and others. This 2 percent tax makes food purchase more expensive than in the surrounding area. This tax is primarily levied in the high-tourist areas at the beach, with the exception of Greenville and Spartanburg. Our business is less competitive with other local restaurants in Pickens and Anderson counties.

Revenue generated by this tax is to only be used for promotion of tourism, according to state law. This year the revenue was budgeted at $1,550,000, expenditures are budgeted for $1,525,248. The “misc/other” category is budgeted at $632,000, 41 percent. My question was “What are those funds being used for?” There were guesses and the explanation that the former administrator had written the budget and was not present to answer. The mayor asked me why I am so critical of them. This newspaper called my question “complaining.”

Recently, I traveled with my daughter’s fifth-grade class to Colonial Williamsburg. One of the guides quizzed the students about events that led to the Revolution and they all sang out “taxes.” Every fifth grader knew that — taxation without representation. King George probably thought Thomas Jefferson was a complainer and critic, too! So I am in pretty good company. It is not only our privilege to question our government, it is our responsibility.

While much “complaining” is done about what goes on in Washington, the budget decisions that affect each of us are at the city, county and state level. I pay $400-$600 per month for hospitality tax in addition to $1,800-$2,000 for state/county sales tax. An Easley business license is $0.29 per 1,000 of last year’s sales.

I pay property taxes on the building and personal property taxes on everything in the building. Beer and wine permit is $600 per year. The new tax on our utilities through Easley Combined is $65-$100 per month, and according to the budget, is about to be levied on a gas bill. I am required to have DHEC inspections and charged $80 for them. The fire department doesn’t charge for inspections; however, I am required a third-party inspection on my fire system at $200/year. Don’t forget $1,500 per month for payroll taxes. What do we get in return? The thing that most businesses have asked for in downtown is for the city to pick up our trash, but the city will not because it doesn’t have the money. Trash pickup costs $160 per month. Frankly, many downtown businesses are broke. I am.

Ironically, I never got to discuss the things I really wanted to understand.

Revenues are up due to the new taxes on utilities and franchise fees. The city is in “a very strong financial position,” so can we please resume trash collection? At the time the city felt it could not afford to pick up business trash, the amount was about $33,000 a year. The city is generating $18 million in revenue — please find a way to appropriate 1/10th of a penny to trash pickup.

The hospitality tax and accommodations tax revenue is $2.5 million dollars. Both taxes are specific to promoting tourism. The “promotion and advertising” line in the budget is blank. Please allocate 5-10 percent of this revenue for promoting and advertising the things Easley has to offer. Increased tourism would increase business revenue, and, in turn, increase tax revenue.

Vicki Ciplickas