Sullivan commissioner clarifies estimate on taxes to ‘equalize education’

J. H. Osborne • Jul 15, 2013 at 8:55 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Commissioner Eddie Williams clarified to the Times-News on Monday comments he made last week regarding his estimate that it would take a 72-cent property tax increase to “equalize education” in the county.

Williams said Monday when he used that figure last week he was talking strictly about the four high schools operated by Sullivan County’s school system, not any of the county system’s elementary or middle schools — nor any city schools.

Williams said he was talking about the discrepancy in per-student funding that exists between the four county highs schools at this point — due to a wide difference in the number of students served at one school compared to the other three.

Williams said Sullivan County is spending about $4,000 more per student to operate Sullivan North High School than it spends per student at Sullivan South, Sullivan East and Sullivan Central.

Williams estimated about 500 students attend North and roughly 1,000 students attend each of the other county high schools.

So, his math was based on how much it would cost, total, if the county were to increase per-pupil spending at the three other schools to the current level at North: $4,000 more per student on the estimated 3,000 students, total, at the other three schools would equal $12 million.

To fund $12 million in new funding for the county schools (roughly $4 million more each for South, Central and East) through property tax revenues, the county would have to actually increase the tax rate enough to generate twice that amount — roughly $24 million — in order to share the revenue with city school systems.

City school systems receive a share of such revenue because it is generated, in part, by city residents — who pay the same county property tax rate as non-city property owners.

Williams said the 72 cents figure was his estimate on what it would take to raise that amount of revenue.

No one has proposed the scenario described by Williams.

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