Local News

School Boards May Soon Get Authority To Raise Taxes

Posted March 7, 2005

— Some people believe that since school board members know the needs of their school districts, they should have the power to raise taxes to fund those needs. That idea is gaining some support in the state.

When Wake County school board members chose the DuBois Center for a temporary elementary school site, they found opposition among parents and county commissioners who control the school system's purse strings.

"The school board has no way to raise any of their own revenue, so if there's something they think needs to be done, they have to do the another elected body in order to basically get approval to do it," said Leanne Winner, of the North Carolina School Boards Association.

The North Carolina School Boards Association said it is time to let school systems control their own funding by giving them the authority to raise property and sales taxes.

"They are the experts in the public policy area and they know what's needed for the children," Winner said.

In addition to helping some counties build new schools, school board officials say taxing authority could be the answer to a whole host of issues, including the funding of poor school districts being discussed in court this week.

"We just believe it's time for North Carolina to see if it's right for our public schools," Winner said.

School board members who would become accountable for financial decisions have only recently embraced the idea, but some county commissioners are still not happy about it.

"Just because you want something doesn't mean you can get it. It's just like taking money out of your own checkbook. You do not buy everything that you want," said Wake County Commissioner Phil Jeffreys.

The North Carolina School Boards Association hopes a bill for a pilot program will be introduced in the General Assembly this session. Members acknowledge it is a long shot at best, but last week, Mecklenburg County commissioners announced their support.

Right now, four local school districts have taxing authority. School boards in Roanoke Rapids, Mooresville and Weldon each add a supplemental property tax for schools. The Hickory school board has the authority, but has never used it.

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