Monday, March 28, 2011

A taxing solution

The comments have been flying fast and furious on a letter to the editor we published last week about teachers. I've caught grief about a couple of columns I've written about teacher pensions. On more than one occasion I have made it, or at least I've tried to make it, perfectly clear that this isn't about the teachers. It's about the never ending increases in property taxes to fund our public schools.
In the middle of it all, one thing is certain, the current system we have is simply not working for all concerned.
I threw out in today's column that we should go to a sales tax base for funding public education. I received the expected 'regressive tax' response from at least one reader. Of course, said reader didn't come back with an answer to the problem, just the complaint.
One reader, Frank Toner, did. I wish I had remembered it for my column, but since I didn't let's bring it up here and keep the conversation going. Frank reminded me that a few years back presidential hopeful Steve Forbes,, floated the idea of a flat tax. I haven't spent hours researching this to find out if it will work, as some of my readers think I should with every topic, so I'll ask you, will a flat tax work?
Is this a taxing solution?


ahab said...

Stan, you've hit the nail on the head!
None of these side issues -unions, pensions, teacher pay, even infrastructure like stadiums- are the actual problem.Fixing them as well as the most frugal teapartier could dream of still won't solve the problem.
The property tax system we now use needs to be completely changed. How to do that is what we should be arguing about, rather than all those other distractions.

The sybil said...

A 10-minute search of "flat tax" on Wikipedia appears to sound easier than it is. There have been a number of people who advocated a flat tax besides Steve Forbes. He proposed a flat tax of 17% on everyone, including buusiness profits. The biggest problem with Forbes' proposal would be that 17% of $25,000 is $4,250, while 17% of $250,000 is $42,500. The smaller wage earner, or businessman for that matter, has proportionately less money to spend on "vital goods" like food and rent and light and heat. All of the other flat tax proposals call for a series of standard deductions, and start getting complicated.

Researching the idea of flat tax is easy, but the true answers come when you do the math. If the school district imposed, for instance, a flat tax of 2% on all income, a household of $15,000 would pay $300, and a household of $250,000 would pay $5,000. Would that bring in enough to run our schools? Depends on your demographics. At 5% you would get $750 from $15,000 and $12,500 from $250,000. We're back to proportions and demographics. If you exempt taxpayers on social security with unearned income, even less money would be coming in.

Agreed, all of this is very simplistic, but running some quick numbers says that a flat tax would not work.

ahab said...

I just opened the school district (PV)annual report that was recently mailed to me. I'm looking at the pie chart that tells me where the money comes from. 79% local taxes. 20% state. 1% federal. Perhaps we should give the feds back their miniscule contribution. Then we can look at all the things we spend money on just because we're told we have to by the federal government when it gets to the point that we need to start cutting programs!

The sybil said...

After a 10 minute look at "flat tax" on Wikipedia, and some simple math it appears that a flat tax probably would not work well. One problem is proportion. For instance if you used Steve Forbes' suggestion of a 17% across the board tax, 17% of $15,000 ($2,550) takes a bigger chunk of basic living expenses than 17% of $150,000 ($25,500).

A school district would have to start with a levy of at least 5% ($750 on $15,000, $7,500 on $150,000)on top of all the other income taxes--federal, social security, state, and local. The percentage a school district would need will have to be higher, because the average income in this area is way below $150,000.

Other proposals for a flat tax have been made, but at some point they all start to allow deductions because of problems with proportion again.

Anonymous said...

Stan, It looks as though you got the Chiefs Head dress feathers on fire. I guess he believes that by going to the will change the way you treat the public views on certain issues. I can imagine if you printed everything people had to say, you would run out of newsprint.Mr. Fleming from Audubon had some very interesting points in his letter, it had to hit some teachers pretty hard, Mr. Fleming is a person who does his homework
(pun) and research before he makes a statement. Both you and Mr. Fleming keep up the good work,I promise not to call your boss.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing the link - but unfortunately it seems to be not working? Does anybody here at have a mirror or another source?


Anonymous said...

We do not have funds for the citizens of the USA, but today one very wise King and our President agreed that the good old USA will help fund their country's citizens and government get back on their feet. Really, Mr. O'Bama? Is there another ball, other than the orange one we see on TV, that will magically solve our own financial problems? Don't think so. What about our Mississippi problems? Flood them out to save New Orleans? What are all these farmers and small business people to do with their homes/businesses gone? Did you say they are chicken livers? I hope not. This situation, if not handled right now will be worse than Katrina. Can't blame Mother Nature for opening those flood gates - so who is to pay? I would like to see it in writing.