Schools need funding

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 10, 2005

More and more citizens are attending the meetings of the Gates County Board of Commissioners, and perhaps it would do well for all of us to begin attending the gatherings of the Planning Board.

Or, at least, that’s the impression I got when county resident John Willey began asking some tough questions of County Planner Tracy White. She was asked how many new homes are &uot;in the pipeline.&uot; He wanted to know how many had been approved before the county enacted the six months moratorium on building at the May 2 meeting.

White responded that she could not answer that question and that Willey should check with the tax office.

Mr. Willey, a resident seemingly dedicated to the good of this county, told White that she was passing the buck and that as the county planner, she was the person who should have such information at her disposal.

That was not the only question Mr. Willey put to the board of commissioners, and by the sound of it, I do not believe they have seen the last of John Willey.

Paul Toti, a local architect, was also at that meeting and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to hear him speak up concerning zoning in the county. He put Commission Chairman J.S. Pierce on the spot, reminding him that zoning was the very item they discussed when Pierce was elected several years ago.

Toti also spoke up on behalf of the Board of Education, telling the commissioners they should give the board the funding they have requested for our school system and buildings and grounds that are falling apart beneath the feet of our students.

The architect added that a tax hike was greatly needed if Gates County is to continue with the excellence for which the education system is recognized.

It was even suggested that a 15 or 20-cent tax hike would not be extravagant, especially in light of development going on in the county.

Currently, there are several singlewide trailers being used at county schools and if Mr. Willey’s predictions are correct, there will soon be more added. School Superintendent Dr. Robert Hahn, at the meeting of the commissioners, explained that the budget has been cut to the bone and there are no more cuts to be made. They’ve even done away with eight positions within the school system and according to the superintendent, some of our underpaid teachers are instructing two classes in one.

Now, I don’t know about you, but it’s like Mr. Willey said, somebody has to keep count.

As he said, when these &uot;mobile classrooms&uot; (nice name for a trailer class) are in use, any citizen can read the writing on the wall; does that fact alone not indicate that we are at, or over, capacity within our schools?

And, how many children are coming to the new homes not yet occupied?

In my opinion, Paul Toti had it right. We need to give the school system all that they need, even if it means raising taxes. Even mine. We have no children in the system at this time, but my husband and I understand… bills must be paid.

Right now, Camden County is moving ever nearer to raising property taxes 17 percent to pay for a sewer system and new school. They lack almost $1 million to pay for the sewers and another $9 million to pay for the school. The county applied for a $10 million federal loan, which would pay for both needs.

There is a catch to the loan, of course, but it goes right back to a tax increase. The county would have to show it can repay the feds by raising property taxes. Camden County Manager Randall Woodruff said that if the county signs off on a 13-cent tax hike, it would increase the current tax rate from 75 cents per $100 of property value to 88 cents per hundred. In other words, a $100,000 home would go from $750 property tax to $880. That would generate approximately $624,000 a year in new revenue for the county, the amount according to Woodruff, that would make the annual loan payments to the feds.

I don’t know others in Gates County, but I am absolutely certain that our family wastes far more than $130 a year on soft drinks and other junk that we could certainly do without. I’m no math whiz, but that actually breaks down to 2 and 1/3 cents a day. I’d say that is a ridiculously low price to pay for the future of education in Gates County.