Homeowners and investors in real estate pay substantial taxes to fund local school operations. Should property owners who don’t have children be exempt from the school portion of local property taxes or should their portion of school taxes be diverted to other public services such as fire and police protection (or another service)?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Public education is just that: It’s for the public, and for the benefit of the public at large.  The education of our children isn’t only for the benefit of their parents or their families, it’s a huge benefit to the entire American society.

Say I’m a single man in my 50s who’s never married and never fathered any children.  I own my own business, make a comfortable living and own a nice house in the suburbs.  It would seem that I probably have a case to argue that I shouldn’t have to pay taxes to support the local schools, right? 

Wrong.  Every time I go to the grocery store and a checker knows how to count my change.  Every time I read a newspaper, go to a restaurant, get my car fixed, visit a library or interact with my local culture in any way, I’m getting the benefits of my local school system.  It sounds simple, and it really is.  An uneducated populace is of no benefit to anyone, and our society would very quickly decay to dust without it.

I know there are problems with our school system.  I support the charter school movement fully, and in fact both my sons are in them. I’m not quite as sure about private school vouchers, as that hews too close to the church/state divide in a lot of cases for me, but my mind is still open.  However, charter schools get public (tax) funding as well, so even they require my property taxes to continue operating.

If you want to continue to derive the benefits of living in an educated society, you need to contribute to the schools that make that society work.  Even the kids who end up in trade school get their basic schooling on the public dime. Even the dropout who ends up flipping burgers at McDonald’s gets the basic math skills she uses to pay her bills in elementary and middle school.  It’s just that simple. 

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Whether or not property owners have children, they should not be exempt from the school portion of local property taxes. Childless couples, those who have children in private schools,  or couples who have had children complete their schooling and are no longer in the system seem to believe that their tax obligations end, or should have never been levied in the first place because of not gaining any direct benefit from the local school system themselves. They look at school districts continuously extracting money from taxpayers for needless school expenses like computers, specialized technology and other extraneous costs outside of the school system.

Many taxpayers fail to realize that property taxes are needed to maintain a school district’s budgetary requirements for ever increasing costs to educate children and maintain solid learning conditions, but many want to take advantage of never having children in the school system or no longer having children in the system, which they feel entitles them to discontinue making property tax payments.  It’s comparable to making payments on a car insurance policy. The premiums have to be paid continuously regardless of whether an accident has or hasn’t occurred.  Policy holders cannot expect the benefits of insurance to continue just because they have never used them.

People without children fail to remember that kids are the backbone of the future, and educating them properly is an investment for both them and the children. Certain services are expected within a community in order for it to function smoothly and that includes public conveniences that people may or may not need or use. Few working individuals or property owners get by without paying utilities, license fees, permits, Social Security taxes, Medicare, sales taxes or other automatic types of deductions, which are not necessarily beneficial to everyone at certain moments in time or stages of life.

Living in American society requires that kids be given educational opportunities in order to secure a future.  Gaining knowledge, functioning normally, interacting appropriately and eventually working in a chosen career or job is all a part of what a desirable education should provide, which can be a costly endeavor in or out of the public school system. Non-parents need to understand that a comprehensive amount of tax revenue is required to fund schools and parents can’t assume all the costs on their own.

Paying property taxes is just one part of the big picture of maintaining a free flowing system that enables kids to accomplish educational goals.  If all the costs of maintaining school systems and other associated societal needs were free or didn’t exist, there would be no anchors or outlets of support to counter risks, human frailties, afflictions, and other problems.

The whole property tax dilemma in relation to the current educational system and its shortcomings certainly gives property owners  reservations about paying property taxes, and the entire process  may seem harsh and unfair to them, particularly when a number of schools nationwide are falling behind and have low achievement results in academic areas. One solution is the revamping of state standards for excellence in schools, but that is a whole other policy that requires intervention at the state level in conjunction with federally subsidized programs that now exist.

Sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow, but people simply are required to pay for things that are beneficial to children, the culture, and society even if the benefits are far removed or of indirect importance at the time.  Eventually, those delayed benefits will come around and be of use, though individuals without children may have never contemplated those aspects. They need to realize that what they are paying out today will come back to them in other forms tomorrow.

Opting out of paying property taxes is really not an option unless individuals choose to live in areas where school districts don’t exist, or property values and taxes are low, or they obtain an allodial title (real property is owned free and clear) or they seek to un-record property, or their property is re-classified as private, and lastly they seek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) within the state they reside.

There are questions as to whether a portion of school taxes can be diverted to other public services such as fire and police protection. The diversion of school taxes to other public services usually  happens anyway as portions of  property taxes do  go for public services such as fire and police protection, plowing and cleaning of streets, and teacher pay.

In looking at property taxes and their level of less than popular support, property owners (whether they do or don’t have children) need to be aware of the quality of education that is coming out of their local districts and must question educational outcomes at the district level to justify tax payments.  Property taxes can have good outcomes when the local economy is thriving and there are jobs for the future that stem from the schools  as well the contributions that  kids coming out of the districts can offer  in future benefits to older and childless property owners. Taxpayers don’t mind property taxes when they receive a return on their investment, which is the hope of all taxpayers.      

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-The concept of mass public education is a noble goal, especially in a democratic society, because an educated populace is more likely to elect wise leaders who will pass laws that promote what’s best for the country as a whole. Unfortunately, public education has disintegrated into an ineffective institution that has become a sacred cow. Few, if any, are willing to consider an alternative method of educating our children. Charter schools and school vouchers are a modest start, but perhaps the time has come to abandon public funding of education with tax dollars in favor of complete parental control over where and how one’s children are educated.

The problem of how to fund local school operations hits close to home because I don’t have children in public school and have also been critical of the practice of using property taxes to fund education. This means no real estate taxes to fund education. No diverting of taxes to other public services. Instead, return the share of tax dollars currently going toward education and allow parents to decide where to educate their children. Existing schools will be allowed to remain, but will be privatized and have to compete for students. Parents will have many more options and will be able to choose the schools and teachers they feel will best fit the needs of their children.

Forcing non-parents to divert their tax dollars to other government services only masks the issue. Homeowners who pay all their property taxes to police and fire protection instead of the school district are still paying the same amount of tax. Their complaint will merely shift to being forced to pay much more for the same services that homeowners who are parents of school children pay. Either way, the current system lacks fairness. Redirecting property tax dollars is the equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

 

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