Don’t Let Your Community Get ‘Pond Gapped’

By Steve Hunley

Knox County Board of Education member Doug Harris is busy making the rounds promoting the idea of increasing the local sales tax. Making an appearance on the Hallerin Hill radio show, Harris says a half penny increase in the local sales tax will generate $30 million for our schools, half of which he proposes to give to teachers as a raise and the other half to “technology.”

Of course Doug Harris can no more direct how any new revenue is spent than I can; it will take a majority of the Board to decide just how to spend any windfall and where. Along the way, my guess is somebody will get “Pond Gapped.” A couple of years ago, the good government folks shook with ecstasy over the some $6 million appropriated for improving just about everything at Pond Gap Elementary. Then those poor folks got Pond Gapped. Hence the term “Pond Gapped.” It is a generally bad feeling kind of like the old “bait and switch.”

Superintendent Jim McIntyre moved the money appropriated for Pond Gap Elementary into a project for the new vocational magnet high school. Of course the money to get that up and running wasn’t $6 million, so who only knows where the rest of those funds went. The final result is the Pond Gap project has been delayed. Quite likely, unless the school system gets a ton more money, it’s likely to be delayed for quite some time.

Folks have been getting Pond Gapped by the school system for years, yet the Board members just can’t get it into their heads why people don’t trust them with more money and higher taxes. Harris and other members of the Board offer the weak excuse that priorities change.

That feeble excuse might suffice were it the exception rather than the rule. The school board has collected millions of dollars from the County Commission for specific projects and improvements and then reshuffled their priorities and they certainly haven’t given back any of the money. Quite frankly, I consider that a misappropriation of funds and doubt County Commission, City Council or either the City or County mayor could get away with it.

McIntyre has constantly been asking for more money and higher taxes on an almost yearly basis, although never for the same thing. This year the school system is getting less money from the State of Tennessee and that has apparently left McIntyre and his minions scared out of their minds.

Now comes along Doug Harris with his notion of raising an already high sales tax rate (9.75%). Tax and Spend Liberals swoon, always saying government needs more money, without bothering to acknowledge that people seem to expect government to provide for them from the cradle to the grave. There’s only so much money and people don’t work to pay taxes; they work to have a home, raise their families and provide as comfortable a life for themselves and their loved ones as they possibly can.

Harris is supposed to be a businessman, yet none of these folks talk about why the state is sending less money and why the county has less money: revenue collections are down because working folks have less money to spend. So Doug Harris thinks it’s a good idea to jack up the sales tax.

It’s not just a bad idea, but a terrible idea.

And don’t think for a moment it’s just Doug Harris’ idea. McIntyre is likely not opposed to anything that will give him more money to spend and lest you think the schools have been starving to death, consider they’ve gotten almost $50 million in new money over the last several years.

Every member of the Knox County Board of Education ought to speak out as to whether or not he or she supports the idea of increasing the already high sales tax. Every candidate for the Knox County Board of Education ought to take a forthright stand on this issue.

Giving the current administration more money is like handing money to a panhandler. It’s almost impossible to believe anything they say. If the commission gives the school system more money, they’re more than likely going to get Pond Gapped again.