“Tax” is not necessarily a bad word

Published 5:09 pm Saturday, July 29, 2017

For most of us, when the words “tax increase” are used, we tend to get all twisted up and frustrated at the thought of having to pay more in taxes. Much of that has to do with the fact that when we pay taxes, especially at the federal level, when the money is gone, it’s gone. We don’t get to see anything come from it.
Locally, that is a much different scenario. Recently the Port Arthur Independent School District announced that they would be holding a tax ratification election on Aug. 5. Early voting will continue through Tuesday.
But let’s get back to the topic at hand.
Social media has been abuzz over the past few weeks about this topic, with some sharing their thoughts in support while others are adamantly against this tax increase of .13 cents. I have to chuckle sometimes when I see individuals becoming so passionate while sharing inaccurate information.
I, for one, am in support of this tax increase, and I’ll tell you why.
Having lived in Port Arthur now for five-and-a-half years, I saw was PAISD was like when I arrived back in 2012. It was in pretty bad shape as compared to other school districts I have been around. Since Dr. Porterie took the reigns three years ago, there has been a constant push to become better. His motto is, “Think with the end in mind!” And he is so very right. You cannot move forward if you are living day to day. You cannot move forward if you are living month to month. And you cannot move forward if you are only focusing on one school year at a time. To move forward, there must be a vision of where you want to be years down the road. And I truly believe Mark Porterie has that vision.
To individuals who claim nothing has been done over the past three years, you definitely have not been watching. Or you have not been watching the right student growth progression. We hear it all the time, “If it took 30 years to break something, it’s going to take more than three years to fix it.” And this is absolutely the case here. Unfortunately we wont be in position see a full turnaround until the children who are currently in grades one through three become high school students.
OK, so why is that?
Children are most impressionable up to the age of 8. This is the third grade level at most public schools. When curriculums are changed, newer elementary school buildings are put into use, when we are able to pay and keep good elementary school teachers, when we purchase new buses and when we are able to maintain this forward focus, then we start improving a child’s mindset.
That’s not to say that older students don’t have or can’t develop this, but younger children, who have not been through what older children have, honestly have a better chance at developing from this time forward. So to see actual long-term change, we will have to wait another six-to-nine years. Sorry to be so blunt, but those are the facts.
When residents start spouting off large numbers that they really don’t know much about, other tax weary residents become nervous. But this is how it ultimately breaks down for most.
For homeowners with an appraised home value of $75,000, they will only see a monthly increase of $5.42 per month. Or .18 cents a day.
Compare that to homeowners with an appraised home value of $100,000. They will only see a monthly increase of $8.13. Or .27 cents a day.
For those that have an appraised value of $200,000, they will only see a monthly increase of $18.96 per month. Or .63 cents a day.
The Jefferson County Appraisal District states that the average home value in Port Arthur is $52,000. This would be a monthly increase of $3.75 cents. Or .13 cents a day.
Additionally, it will NOT affect senior citizens.
Other residents have shared concerns about the 2014 bond, which was passed authorizing $195 million. PAISD committed to the voters that they would not increase taxes with this bond. And they have not. They have only been able to sell $145 million. For those who have been watching, they have moved forward with all of the major projects promised in the bond, but they had to pull back until the property values are high enough so that the tax increase is not higher than $.32. In addition, the bond dollars can be used for major renovations, building new schools, or purchasing and/or replacement of equipment. They still have 20 buses to be purchased, but we do not have the funds available at this time to purchase them. They have one additional new facility to be built for the transportation and maintenance groups. Bond funds cannot be used for salaries, small item purchases, maintenance/repair work (as opposed to major renovations), utility bills, or anything related to maintaining operations. This is very similar to the situation with the City of Port Arthur and the work done on city logos. That money came from our hotel occupancy tax, which may only be used for certain things, while frustrated residents wanted the money used for streets instead. Sorry, but it just can’t happen legally.
PAISD expects be short approx. $6 million dollars for the upcoming school year. The issue is their property values have decreased so much that local tax revenues along with the amount they anticipate from the state does NOT cover the expenditure budget. This is the reason for the tax ratification election. Some will say, “trim the fat.” If you knock $6 million out of any entity, it will be greatly crippled. That may be devastating to a point that it could never recover. Ultimately ceasing to allow PAISD to be what it truly can be. Would anyone be able to sleep better at night knowing they let that happen? I know I couldn’t.
PAISD will still have to make expense cuts across the district to cover the rest. As well they should. Some of this responsibility should lye on their shoulders. But they cannot do it alone.
If citizens of Port Arthur truly want their community to become better, then they need to invest in the generation that will be responsible for it and it’s future. For without that, why are we even here in the first place? I hope you realize that there are people in this community who passionately care about moving Port Arthur forward. But to do so, we need your help.

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