Giving School Boards Taxing Power

It’s something Del. Tom Rust wants JLARC to take a look at:

Directs the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to study implications of granting fiscal autonomy to elected school boards in the Commonwealth. In conducting its study, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission shall (i) examine state constitutional and statutory issues regarding school board supervisory authority, (ii) study the respective roles of local school boards and the relevant local governing body in delivering and funding public education, (iii) examine fiscal authority models in other states, and (iv) consider such other issues as it deems appropriate.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission must submit an executive summary of its findings and recommendations to the 2009 Session and its final findings and recommendations to the 2010 Session of the General Assembly.

Considering the black hole that is education spending, I’m not sold on the idea of giving local school boards the power to set their own tax rates (can you imagine the great minds on the Richmond School Board attempting to do that?).

However, having attended a school district that could set its own tax rate (subject to voter approval), I can also see, and have benefited from, such a scheme.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


7 responses to “Giving School Boards Taxing Power”

  1. Avenging Archangel Avatar
    Avenging Archangel

    I could support taxing authority if all school boards in Virginia were elected. However, some (as in Norfolk) aren’t.

    There’s no way you give taxing authority to an appointed school board.

  2. Groveton Avatar

    The state legislature has granted taxing authority to a couple of regional transportation authorities. Now they are considering granting taxing authority to local school boards.

    At some point, does the state lower its taxes because transportation and education are funded by new taxes raised by new taxing authorities? I doubt it. I see this as yet another way for the state legislature to raise taxes without appearing to be raising taxes. Despite this, I could still support this initiative since it takes power from the observably inept state legislature and gives power to localities (which may or may not prove to be inept). I say that I could support this initiative rather than saying I do support this initiative. The difference is my genetic mis-trust of the state legislature. If the state legislature wants regional transportation authorities and school boards to become taxing authorities they should draft an amendment to the Virginia Constitution specifically defining the rights and responsibilities of these entities. In addition, the amendment should overtly remove the state legislature from any responsibility for the tasks to be performed by these organizations. If localities are to be given responsibility for raising taxes for particular purposes they should also receive formal authority over the activities they are funding. The state legislature is slowly admitting their incompetence in transportation and education. They are “passing the buck” for raising additional taxes for these areas. They should finish the job by writing themselves out of almost all involvement in transportation and education as well.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “….to study implications of granting fiscal autonomy to elected school boards in the Commonwealth.”

    I think for elected school boards that it is an excellent idea.

    For one thing, more people would start to understand and realize that a substantial portion of local taxing is for schools.

    for another, the annual knocking of heads between the BOS and the School Board would recede.

    Right now, the situation in some counties is that there is political pressure on the BOS not to raise the tax rate while at the same time, the School Board submits a budget that virtually requires raising the tax rate.

    So the BOS is put in a vise between alienating taxpayers or parents and yes.. believe it or not.. some parents do not make the “connection” between “fully funding” schools and raising real estate tax rate.

    I see some downsides and that is that some localities might end up dividing parents against those without kids… and in localities where parents outnumber non-parents, the school budget will be whatever parents want it to be – no matter how unfair it seem… but in other counties where the reverse is true.. schools might not receive enough funding.

    Other downsides would be how would tax relief be done for the elderly on fixed incomes?

    We could have the BOS granting relief on one basis while the School Board might do it on another basis or not at all.

    Then.. proffers and/or impact fees for school facilities.. since the BOS regulates/approves land-use and school board boards do not..

    but all things considered.. it elevates the issue of taxing/funding for schools and makes the issue and the budget process more transparent to taxpayers – a good thing in my humble opinion.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    We have too many taxing authorities and other special interests as it is. Each one wants only one percent more, but there are so many the potential creeping risk is very high. No one is responsible for looking at the total burden.

    I think you should pay all your taxes to one person – a local person you can look in the eye. Then if the state or Feds need money, they can talk to him, instead of beating up on everybody individually from dozens of agencies. It is inefficient and wasteful, and it reduces accountability.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    As one of the great minds of the Richmond School Board, I take no umbrage at all over the comment. That board at least has no business setting tax rates.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The current system of having a school board do the budget and operations autonomously from a separate board (BOS) sets up a situation for conflict and allows the School Board to evade accountability for the consequences of their actions.

    Every other department under the BOS authority can be “directed” to meet budget goals except the Schools.

    So, for instance, right now, with the housing market situation seriously eroding revenues, some BOSs have told County Departments to freeze hiring except for specific exemptions and to submit a reduced budget that reflects the fact that revenues will be reduced.

    this can only be “suggested” to the Schools.

    It’s true, the BOS can fund less than what the Schools submit but it’s also true that the schools then “put out the word” to Parents that their kids favorite programs … extra-curricula activities, sports, even academic programs will be “cut” unless the school budget is “fully funded”.

    So .. I would say.. either make the Schools work just like any other county/town department or make them more accountable to voters for their budgets.

    The current setup.. in a way.. encourages spending… without having to deal with the tax consequences of those actions.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    I agree that school boards should not be given taxing power.

    On the other hand, there is political reality- when will Richmond leaders step up to take care of ADA for its public schools?

    Its a moral and legal crisis and all the politicians do is point fingers at each other.

Leave a Reply