North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

October 18, 2012

Our Views: A reminder of how Alabama’s taxation methods are flawed

North Jefferson News

AN NJN EDITORIAL — A very interesting point was made last week in comments by Jefferson County Board of Education President Jennifer Parsons.

In her comments after the board selected Dr. Steven Nowlin as the system’s next superintendent, Parsons remarked about one of the reasons she felt that Nowlin was selected over Dr. Karyle Green, who is superintendent of the East Allen County Schools near Fort Wayne, Indiana. The reason: Nowlin was more familiar with Alabama’s method of funding its schools, as Indiana’s method is very different.

That may be valid, but it also serves to remind us how flawed our state’s tax system is.

Property taxes supply little revenue as they are relatively low, though Jefferson County gets more property-tax revenue than most Alabama systems, according to Nowlin. In Indiana, property taxes are considerably higher, but they are used to fund schools almost entirely, among other things. Sales taxes, which are lower (and non-existent on most groceries), are much less of a factor, and there’s no state personal income tax.

Far be it from us to say that low taxes are a bad thing, but the kind of taxes we use for school funding here are the wrong kind. Not only are they more of a burden on low-income taxpayers, but their revenue levels ebb and flow with the economy. That’s the main reason there’s so much trouble in balancing budgets these days.

Property taxes, on the other hand, vary little from year to year, and provide a more dependable source of revenue for schools to count on. And they’re more equitable across income levels, as more affluent residents pay tax on real estate, while less affluent pay on cars and such. In Indiana in particular, industry shoulders much of the property tax burden.

It’s high time that Alabama lawmakers realized that we have a horrible way of raising tax revenues for our schools, our counties and our cities.