Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What if they threw a public input session on a new construction excise tax and no one came?

There was one line from the story in the DH that caught my eye:

Districts should be looking at tax incentives, not hikes, to stimulate a struggling economy, Robertson added...

Funny - I didn't realize it was the school district's job to stimulate a struggling economy. I thought it was the district's job to educate students. That education, of course, costs money, and since the state doesn't provide enough of it (thanks, Measure 5!), districts are trying to figure out ways to make ends meet. Asking those who add new costs to a district by adding students to pay up has a certain logic to it.

Also, can I just say that statement is ludicrous? I am left hoping - sorry, Jennifer - that the reporter got this wrong somehow. The alternative, that Robertson actually meant what he said, suggests he's not the least bit interested in the health or quality of the school district..... or is an idiot. Come on: Tax incentives? At the small-town level, cutting taxes is not going to increase income. Period. The most charitable explanation I can surmise is that Robertson was making an argument that lowering taxes would draw more people to Lebanon, which would ultimately increase tax revenues. The only problem: That doesn't work. At least, it's failed miserably at the federal level; I see no reason that it would actually work with housing on the local level.

Oh, this was a bit sketchy too:

Robertson cautioned board members about adopting an unstable funding source the district might come to rely on.

By sketchy, of course, I mean insulting. It was clear from the last two board meetings that no one thought this was going to bring in much money, or even that it would necessarily be stable. Implying otherwise, in the face of evidence, only makes sense if one thinks the board and district administrators are stupid. Frankly, I don't think anyone involved in the LCSD is that stupid. Lots of other things, but not the kind of stupid that it would take to budget for this as if it was a guaranteed, regular thing. It also suggests that Robertson was not paying attention to what's been said already.

Heck, the OSBA guy proves Robertson wrong a few paragraphs later (by repeating what he said the first time he was in town):

The tax money may be saved over time or used right away, as long as it is spent only for projects such as property purchases, new construction or building improvements, said David Williams, legislative and public affairs specialist for the Oregon School Boards Association.

Don't get me wrong; I understand why realtors don't like this idea, and I do understand that homebuyers are likely going to pick up the ultimate tab (god forbid someone's profit margin shrink). However, if "has to pay the tax" is actually grounds for not taxing someone, we should all just admit the social contract has failed and start killing each other. Face it; either we're all in this together - which means, among other things, that we have to find some way to pay for those things we all use - or we're only looking out for number one. I don't believe the latter is true; even the most hardline libertarian doesn't get very far if they steal from their neighbors. Ergo, someone's going to pay for something that should be considered a public good. Sorry, Mr. Robertson.

... by the way, what does it mean that no one showed up?


Anonymous said...

Take it easy.

Robertson is neither an idiot nor uninterested in the health of Lebanon and its schools. Quite the reverse: He's a member of the Lebanon Planning Commission and is very knowledgeable about planning issues. He's worked with the school district's Buildings and Boundaries Committee on growth issues.

Roxy said...

I'd like to know at current growth levels, or using projected growth levels, what the actual ammount is they intend to collect from SDCs. (Did I miss that in the story?) I just can't imagine that it would cover say, the cost for a new school, or hell, even the cost for a few additional bus routes for more than a year. If the idea is growth should pay for itself, it falls short of the goal with these kinds of taxes.

Dennis said...

The number I remember from the board meeting was more in the low tens of thousands of dollars, if that, than anything else. No one was under any illusion that this would do anything but marginally offset costs.

The OSBA guy suggested that the district just bank the money until it amounted to something significant.

To the anonymous commenter.... I don't doubt that what you say is true. However, how do you explain his comments?

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