The Bradley County Republican Party [Executive Board] would like to further elaborate on its opposition to the proposed wheel tax. The party’s opposition to the wheel tax is not an attack on our local education system. Our party opposes the tax because it will significantly increase the county’s local debt load.
Republicans heartily support education which, along with hard work, ingenuity and perseverance, increases quality of life for families and the community. Quality education in a community lures better paying employers and thus, stimulates the local economy. On the other hand, a burdensome debt load impedes economic growth and overburdens the citizens.
Bradley County is already $78 million in debt. The school systems are asking the County Commission to obtain a new loan in the amount of $32 million for building projects. Because our debt load is so huge, Bradley County can borrow this amount of money only if it creates a new tax revenue (i.e. the wheel tax) to use as collateral for the loan. If the wheel tax passes, and our county borrows $32 million for the school systems, we will then be approximately $110 million in debt, with $96 million of that amount related to education spending.
The wheel tax is only estimated to bring in $1.8 million to $2 million each year. The County Commission has designated any excess funds from the wheel tax to pay down education-related debt. If revenue remains flat, as it has during the last several years of economic downturn, it will take approximately 18 to 20 years to pay off the $32 million debt. In the last five years alone, Bradley County has spent $9.2 million more than what we have brought in.
Republicans across the nation, at all levels of government, are fighting debt and excessive spending. Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a ranking member of the House Budget Committee and member of the National Commission of Fiscal Responsibility, recently said it best, “Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, the problem is spending.” We believe this statement holds true for all levels of government, including our local county government.
Unfortunately, some citizens believe that when they write a $32 check each year for a wheel tax, the money will go directly to our two school systems. It will not. The excess wheel tax revenue will be used for payments on this debt, and this provides no revenue for the next request made by the school boards. We are being asked to levy a tax on ourselves to go further in debt.
Many in the community are worried if the wheel tax referendum fails, we will have a property tax increase. Please ask yourself the following questions: If Bradley County cannot borrow money because of our debt load now, how will we be able to obtain additional loans in the next few years after we add $32 million to our debt without adding new streams of revenue or raising taxes? Will the school systems ask the County Commission for additional funds before taxpayers are able to pay off the $32 million loan? If so, how will we pay for these requests?
Pass or fail, we have a serious debt problem in Bradley County. Because we raised the local portion of the sales tax to the state maximum, by law, we cannot raise the local portion of the sales tax again. As citizens, we either say “no” to excess spending or we accept an additional $32 million in debt and the possibility of a property tax increase.
Republicans believe taxes should only be raised after every other option has been explored. The wheel tax has been the topic of discussion at several of our monthly meetings and the decision to oppose this tax has not been taken lightly. We cannot support a tax on citizens [whose] true consequence is to bring more debt to our county. The solution is hard, yet simple: We need to tighten our belts, prioritize our needs, delay our wants and cut spending to live within our means.
For more information, visit our website at www.bradleycountygop.com or our facebook page: www.facebook.com/BradleyGOP.
— David Smith, chairman
Debbie Williams, vice chairman
Adam Lewis, secretary
Andrew Morgan, treasurer
Jonathan Cantrell, past chairman
Steve Crump, past chairman
John Stanbery, past chairman
Lita Esquinance, president, Bradley County Republican Women’s Club
Peggy Myers, president, Bradley County Pachyderm Club