With perhaps some exceptions, nobody likes to pay taxes, but how taxes are collected, and what they are used for, can make a difference in what we think about them.

For example, the biggest tax burdens for most West Virginians are consumer purchases and income.  But you don’t hear too much complaining about them, probably because of the way they are assessed. Sales taxes are automatically added to the purchase price and income taxes are taken directly out of your paycheck.

It’s almost as though you don’t see the money, or it’s never quite in your hands.

Property taxes, however, are different.  You actually get a bill and then write a check to the county sheriff (unless it’s automatically added to your mortgage).  If you fall behind, your name ends up in the newspaper with other delinquents.

No wonder West Virginians take property taxes (real and personal) so… personally. So when counties decide to vote whether to raise their property taxes, all hell breaks loose.

Saturday, Kanawha County voters will decide whether to increase their property taxes to provide more money for public education. The proposal would raise excess levyl rates to their maximum, generating $131 million over the next five years for the school system.

Supporters of the levy, like school board member Robin Rector, argue passionately for passage.

“The future is what’s at stake here,” Rector said on Metronews Talkline Wednesday. She says without additional money, Kanawha County schools are headed for a deficit, which means cuts in vital educational services.

Nonsense, says another school board member, Pete Thaw, who opposes the levy.

“Number one, we don’t need the money.  Number two, it’s a hardship on the people.  Number three, we spill more than we use now,” Thaw said.

Kanawha County property owners have taken notice, with many doing the math to determine just how much more they would have to pay.  Business owners are paying particular attention, since commercial property is taxed at a higher rate.

“It will increase my property taxes at home $477.80, and another $1,500 on my rentals and office!” one levy opponent emailed me.

But a levy supporter emailed: “It comes down to, in an era of fewer federal dollars and increasing expenses, are we going to invest in our children and our community?  We say yes.”

And there’s the divide.

Government has become increasingly complicated, which means these kinds of decisions come down to perceptions and trust: do voters believe the schools are doing a good job and deserve greater community support or do they question the efficacy of public education and use the levy to make a statement.

We’ll find out Saturday evening who had the most convincing argument.

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Comments

  • ConservativeRealist

    Curious as to what triggers a comment to get "moderated"...

  • Matt

    Vote "No". Extra funding does not promise a brighter, smarter child for our future.

    The literacy rate was higher during the Civil War than it is now and all they used were slate, a board, and a few books. They drafted amazing letters and mastered the english language without the use of IPads or anything else this levy will pay for.

    No amount of funding can help this lost generation, their problems start in the home.

    • realitycheck

      but the government swears that the more money you throw at a problem the better... you mean that's not true?

  • ConservativeRealist

    I heard Ms. Rector on the radio this morning talking about putting the levy back on the ballot in May if it fails on Saturday. She alluded to - and I am paraphrasing - that they wanted to test the waters and obtain the public's opinion. At an expense of almost $300,000.00 for this special election - that is some kind of test!

    No where have I heard of making cuts in the administration which has repeatedly been cited as top heavy. No where have I heard about fiscal responsibility and exploring other ways to cut costs. We, as parents, are already bombarded with our kids bringing home fundraisers from day one that we are expected to go and schlep around - that's on top of being given a lengthy list of school supplies that we have to purchase for our children and the classroom as a whole.

    When the public asks for increased accountability from teachers and administrators, the WVEA and other teacher organizations raise the hue and cry against national certification, drug testing, stricter attendance policies, dress codes, and just about every other "real-world" requirement.

    As has been posted many times before on Metro News, the diatribe of, "...its for the kids..." has been played so much the record is broken and we, the people, as taxpayers, aren't going to keep feeding the jukebox without some significant changes.

  • mntnman

    The BEST way to decide whether to raise taxes -- let the people decide. Vote on whether to raise citizens taxes -- knowing the specific purpose when you vote. Awww, democracy at its finest.

    The question I ask opponents is simple -- educating children is expensive. The cost of everything we do to educate them is going up. Revenues ARE falling. So, do we stand up and pay to do the one thing that we KNOW can end poverty and IS an economic development tool? Or do we complain about another $1977.80 a year in taxes (on how much income??) Sure, it is a lot of money -- but are we one for all or only about ourselves??

    The question I ask proponents is do you spend the money you have wisely? Are you working to squeeze more from your current dollars? Are you identifying waste and eliminating it? The money you are seeking -- is it going to the classroom and students, where it is needed most? This is a great deal of money. Is the proposal to spend thought out and the best use of the money.

    In the end, the citizens of Kanawha County get to decide what they want to spend their money on and whether or not to take on additional tax burden. Pro or con, this is the best way to make this decision. I just wish there was a way to get past all the spin and get to the real facts. (There is, of course, but it requires more work than most voters are willing to do.) Hope the voters are thoughtful on this one.

    Good luck Kanawha County. I hope you make the right decision, whatever that may be.

    • wirerowe

      Excellent balanced commentary Mntnman that perfectly lays out the logic of voter referendum for education and the things that voters should consider when they vote. You have the experience and balanced thoughtfulness that is a real positive for this discussion. The proponents in Kanawha have overreached in asking for more than they need at this time and not effectively communicating why the pieces and the total are needed.

  • Jesse's girl

    Wowbagger has made a premiere point. When people have to write the check they pay attention.

    Taxes are to be used to fund public needs and nothing else. Schools are where politicians and others clean up. They say "for the children" (those are the ones which were not aborted by the same folks).

    Thanks to the Recht decision, a substantial portion of all Monongalia County monies are transferred to the southern coalfield counties because they do not have as much money. Wonder how much has been in the Mingo county kitty? In the late 1980's the superintendent of schools position was going for a cool $150,000. Wonder why?

    Taxes are to be used to pay for services and not as a form of punishment on the successful. When West Virginia embraces this concept, perhaps we will have respect for the public who supplies the hard-earned funds and not view them as a never-ending piggy bank.

    • DWM

      I agree with all taxes being paid by check by the taxpayer so they fully understand the cost of government.

      I feel for the people that are single or married with no kids or for people that pay to send their kids to private schools. I understand that there is a local benefit to having good schools in that it boosts the economy and improves property values, I just think those people should get some discount.

      • Rick S.

        DWM, I absolutely agree with you. While everyone in a community benefits to some degree from having good schools, the families with children in those schools benefit much more than people without children in those schools -- that just makes sense. Unfortunately, property taxes are based on the value of one's property, with no consideration whatsoever given to whom benefits the most from the taxes.

        A system should be put into place where school taxes are levied at a rate related to the number of children a family has in the school system. For example, a family with two children in the school system would pay a higher tax rate than somebody with no children. This would be much more fair and more palatable to all voters.

        As things stand now, it is a case where those who benefit the most (families with children, and employees of the school system) tend to favor school levies, and those who benefit the least (those without children, and those who do not work for the school system) tend to oppose school levies. It would be great to make things more equitable and unite the community, rather than continually divide the community.

  • Bill Hill

    All taxes should be paid by check written by the taxpayer. That way you get to see just how much the Fed, State, and local governments take. I saw a figure sometime ago where between 38 and 40% is the average amount an average taxpayer pays in out of their income in one year. Most politicians look at the public as an endless money supply, which isn't true. The money supply is finite. It is time politicians learned to cut instead of running tot he public for more money.

  • Joe

    What percentage of this levy is designated for teacher salary and benefit increases? Thanks in advance for any intel on this.

    In Hancock County, the levy on the ballot designates approx 65 percent to teacher step salary and benfit increases. Source: The Wheeling Intelligencer.

  • Wowbagger

    All taxes should be paid directly by check or whatever and not hidden as payroll deductions and escrow funds. Residents of some "progressive" urban areas of the US have a minority interest in their incomes.

    Politicians would quickly learn to be much more careful spending taxpayers hard earned money.

  • JTC

    Let's just face it, one way or another you are going to pay the same amount percentage wise of your income all the time,it never changes, when you cut federal dollars the state must make up the difference,when you lose state dollars the county must make up the difference, it is only political posturing that make us think our taxes are going up or down. Like I said you pay the same all the time it just changes who the money goes to occasionally.

  • Retired Teacher

    Want to avoid personal property taxes? Just follow the example of an increasing number of Point Pleasant and Mason County residents: simply have a phony Gallia County, Ohio address and keep your vehicle(s) tax-free. It works like this: politicians make grand pronouncements that these tax scofflaws are going to pay; taxpayers are urged to turn suspected tax dodgers names or addresses over to authorities (!); tax scofflaws thumb their noses at such pronouncements and continue to pay Ohio $$ for vehicle license renewal, thereby avoiding yearly West Virginia personal property and vehicle inspection costs; finally, West Virginians who pay their taxes continue to subsidize the scofflaws. Welcome to Mason County.

    Now, multiply this by the remaining fifty-four counties. Quite a tax-dodge, isn't it?

  • TD

    AGAIN, it's healthcare that's the problem. It's not that the people of Kanawha or any other county aren't paying plenty in taxes to support the education system, it is the fact that our health care costs twice what any other industrialized country does and the county board is paying twice what they should to insure their employees.

    If we would tackle this beast and get in line with the rest of our economy Kanawha county would find they have more money than they need.

    Almost every single problem we have, from deficits to competitiveness, can be traced directly to the monster that is our healthcare system. When are we going to come to this realization and fix this problem instead of dealing with the myriad other problems the beast is creating?

    • WhgFeeling

      But But But But.....The AFFORDABLE Care Act.

      • TD

        the ACA is just now starting, although it will help some with the cost it's going to take time.

        BUT BUT BUT... what is your point? The problem is that we pay twice what everybody else in the world does, that's WITHOUT the ACA. So what is your solution? You like paying double? Then don't complain about the problems it causes and pay up!

        I don't like paying double. You pay for it in taxes like these but also in EVERYTHING you buy. Your utilities, a loaf of bread, every single thing you buy this year has an inflated cost that is the direct result of the healthcare monster!

        A few people are getting incredibly wealthy from the current system and they have people like yourself protecting the status quo.

        • MoMoney

          Obama's EPA policies are going to make you pay double, maybe triple, for your electricity and heat now. But you are all for that. What a typical liberal hypocrit.

          • TD

            speculation on your part, so far my cost have not risen. However, I am already paying double for healthcare (have been for 25 years) and I don't like it one bit.

        • Concerned

          Agreed. The aca may not be the answer. But anyone can see the recent history of healthcare increases showed the old system was not sustainable. So again, the aca may not be the answer, but if it's not, maybe something will come of it. Sometimes hands must be forced to make change.

    • Bim

      Thank God for Obamacare! Now everything is being blamed on that instead of trial lawyers!

    • Bill

      I guess you think healthcare should be free?

      • mntnman

        No, but stitches in the ER (Express Care) should not cost $1800 either.

        • GregG

          Now mntnman you know good and well that these poor doctors and hospitals are going broke. Well, that's what they want everyone to believe. Funny, drive from Kanawha City to Spring Hill and all you see is hospital construction. And these poor doctors that can't make any money? Really? Try getting in to see one of these poor broke can't make it to payday doctors. I'm not crazy about ACA, but I believe the only reason that these doctors and hospitals are kicking and screaming is because their free reign to rape the public is being threatened.

      • TD

        NO!!!!!!!!!!! Did I say that?????

        The latest figures, from 2011, show the US with an $8,508 cost per citizen and the next 11 nations with an average cost of $4,391. Norway on the high end at $5,669 and Britain on the low at $3,405. These nations have a combined 1+ year longer life expectancy of more than a year longer than we do.

        IS that the kind of results you conservatives desire? Why are you protecting this monster? EVERY single person in the country should be mad about this fleecing!!!

        • Max

          TD...Norway has 5 million people...Great Britain has about 63 million...we have states bigger than Norway, get real...they say we are at 330 million...with the "illegals" probably closer to 350 million...it is not possible to accomplish socialized healthcare, I'm sick of the USA getting compared to socialist countries...I don't want to be like Norway and we fought to separate ourselves from a monarchy...looks like we're headed back to placing ourselves under one with BHO

          • TD

            Max, the 11 countries in the chart have a combined population of over 600 million people and every ethnicity imaginable.

            Why and how could a conservative defend such an inefficient system getting such poor results? Why would you reward this just because Republican talking heads tell you to?

          • GregG

            We are a monarchy, Big Business is King and the elite rich the Queen.

  • Wirerowe

    The proponents of the increased levy have not made the case for any of the proposed new expenditures much less for raising the taxes by $131 million. In fact Pete Thaw President of the Kanawha County Board of education says the levy is not needed at all. Taxpayers can not afford $130 million in new taxes. Wages. are flat and social security is going up only 1.2 percent. All essentials including utilities and food are increasing. In addition the proponents have cherry picked an election days to skew the election and cost the taxpayers more than $ 300,000 that would not be spent if this was held on a regular Election Day. Finally the promotional materials supporting the levy were printed and distributed in Iowa and Indiana. There are plenty of qualified and hungry printers in Kanawha County. Vote no.

  • dave stanton

    Let's see...28,000 Kanawha County students, $131 million levy.... That's $4678 per student increase over today.

    Hmm, wonder how it will be spent?

    • GregG

      If the levy passes, I wonder if parents will still be ask to supply the class rooms with items such as hand sanitizer and tissues. Will the kids still be forced to pound the streets like a '70's Amway salesman? Or stand on the street corner bumming money every weekend?

      • The bookman

        Our home county recently passed an excess levy, and the supply list process was discontinued...most excess levy calls I have seen list item for item what the levy will pay for and what it cannot be used for...I don't get the sense that the KCBOE has done its due diligence in selling the need for the additional funds...that's not to say the funding isn't needed, just that their approach seems quite lazy when compared to other county efforts I have seen...it also doesn't help when one of their biggest detractors is Pete Thaw, known for his outspoken comments regarding educational issues in Kanawha County as well as being president of the board seeking the funds...awkward situation to watch!

      • Shadow

        If we don't get the kids out on the street begging, how are they going to become good little WVians?

    • Matt

      Ipads for everyone!!

  • David McKain

    Hoppy,
    Most residential property owners do not have to write checks - the taxes are paid by the lending institution and the cost added on a monthly basis to the homeowners mortgage payment. As a result, they don't pay as much attention to property taxes as do commercial property owners.
    If people had more confidence that those at the county and state level were assessing all property in a fair manner and that there was effective oversight they might be more open to increasing property tax rates to support local causes, primarily education.
    However, West Virginia property owners rightly don't have confidence in their local assessors or in the State Tax Department to provide effective oversight.

  • Don Jr.

    Hoppy,
    The tax rate for all forms of taxes should be set at a fair rate and then never raised. The tax funds should be earmarked and spent only for their intended purpose, that was agreed upon in the beginning when the tax was established. Audits should be done and published to insure compliance. Stealing of these funds should result in jail time. Examples of earmarking funds: Social Security taxes should be earmarked for social security benefits and administration. Gasoline and Diesel taxes should be earmarked for DMV use and road repair. Cigarrette taxes should be earmarked and go for research and treatment of respitory cancer and disease. Personnel Property taxes should be earmarked to run the schools. Sales taxes should be earmarked to run the government and national defense. Until taxes are set at a fair percentage and left alone, with the funds earmarked to go for a voter supported purpose, and stealing of those funds becomes a crime, we'll continue to have these debates and tax problems in this country.

    • rbk

      Who decides what is fair Don? What taxes are you talking about, some are progressive and others are regressive? Did you know taxes are near all time lows compared to our history? Do you know the 2 primary causes of the national debt increase over the past 10 years? War and the worst economic collapse since the depression. Did you know public sector employment increased under Bush, while declining with Obama and private sector employment has increased under Obama, while declining under Bush? Ignorance is bliss huh?

      • Max

        rbk...you've been drinking the Obama koolaid...public sector employment under Obama has exploded...you are like him...just because he spews his lies..."if you like your healthcare insurance you can keep it, if you like your doctor you can keep him/her,PERIOD"...the federal government is bringing in more tax revenue than ever...

        • vashti

          unfortunately Max when looking at actual numbers you are wrong. Not being a fan of Obama does not entitle you to make up your own facts or numbers. you don't have to like it , you may not think that there are few enough public secotr workers yet but the FACT remains the numbers of public sector employees has dropped.

          • MoMoney

            Quite the opposite Vashti. The number of Federal government employees is up almost 15% under Obama. Self employed government contractors are up 20%.

          • Charleston,WV

            Hey Vashti: The majority of those public sector jobs you are referring to are military personnel. Thanks for your biased information though!

          • Charleston,WV

            Check out the office of personnel government website and see for yourself. Since 1962, uniformed military personnel has a net drop (in the thousands) from 2,840 to 1,583. On the other hand Executive branch civilian, and Legislative and Judicial Branch personnel have a net increase (2,485 to 2,756 and 30 to 64 (in the thousands) respectively.))

          • vashti

            http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/05/the-lagging-public-sector/

        • vashti

          http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&ved=0CDkQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hamiltonproject.org%2Fpapers%2Fa_record_decline_in_government_jobs_implications_for_todays_economy_an%2F&ei=dAt9UreRKvCWyAH7wYGYBQ&usg=AFQjCNF4spImDDYMR2WHbM9nqWJbqiVKMQ

      • Don Jr.

        "Who decides what is fair?"
        Unfortunately, neither party has demonstrated the ability to be fair. You would expect that they could reach a fair compromise if they wanted to. It would not be very hard or take very long to work out a fair tax system. I have not spent much time thinking out the details as it is a waste of time, I've heard no one is talking about real solutions. I will give you an example of how a fair income tax should work, if an income tax is even needed after all the fraud, waste, and abuse is cleaned up. Everyone should pay exactly the same income tax rates without any write off's or deductions for each level of money that they earn. The numbers will not be exact, but here is the principle. Everyone pays 0% on the first 10,000 of income. Everyone pays 10% on the second 40,000 of income. Everyone pays 15% on all income exceding 50,000. There is something to be said for having the same rules for everyone and everyone knowing the rules. By the way, congress should be governed by the same laws as everyone else, this is a big part of the problem today as well.

      • AX MAN

        rbk, You need to stop smoking that stuff, you couldn't be wrong.