FACTS FOR FACTS' SAKE
I always find Patrick Sharbaugh's reviews and columns well-written, factual, and constructive. His column in the Oct. 26 issue of the City Paper ("State of the Arts," Unscripted, Arts) was especially interesting. I do, however, take exception to his remark that the state of arts education in Charleston County Schools is "deplorable." I doubt that he talked to Jim Braunreuther, the Fine Arts Coordinator for the Charleston County School District, so I will take it upon myself to enlighten him
Every elementary child in the district has music and art every week taught by certified arts teachers. Every middle and high school student has access to art, band, chorus, and orchestra taught by certified teachers. Many schools have full time drama teachers. Over 1,000 students participate in the strings program including three county wide orchestras. Approximately 5,000 students participate in choral programs in elementary, middle, and high school, and over 3,000 students in middle and high school band programs. Many middle and high school drama departments present stage productions giving their students performing as well as technical experiences. Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School is an arts infused school that has been nationally recognized for over 20 years. The School of the Arts is a county-wide, grades 6-12 magnet school in which students major in music, art, drama, dance, or creative writing, and has served as a model for other schools in the state. The summer SPACE (School for the Performing Arts and Creative Experiences) program provides a three-week experiences in all the arts for over 300 students. These arts programs are taught by teachers and other professionals in the community. All-state choral, band, and string festivals have a high percentage of Charleston students.
These are just a smattering of the arts experiences offered the students of the Charleston County School District. Hardly a "deplorable" situation; especially when compared to districts and states which have cut their arts programs.I would invite Mr. Sharbaugh to visit Wando High School, to name just one, and witness the hundreds of students participating in outstanding art, band, choral, and drama programs.
Charleston County School District recognizes the arts as an important part of a child's education. It is unfair to label the program as deplorable without knowing the facts.
(Mr. Goldsmith is the retired coordinator of fine arts for the school district -- Ed.)
CRAPPY TAXATION REPRESENTATION
I was there at the recent S.C. Senate committee meeting on property tax relief and this is what I got out of it:
1. An assumption was made that $125 million would be placed in reserve from first a 3-cent sales tax increase, then it was reduced to a 2.5-cent sales tax increase, than reduced to a 2-cent increase.
2. But the reserve fund (still remaining the same) would be reduced to pay for a 2-cent reduction on food taxes.
3. That the reserve fund would further be reduced by $60 million to provide a refundable tax credit for long term renters.
4. That owners of second homes that are not rented would be included in the property tax exemption; otherwise the existing tax rates would remain as is for rental property. (Hooray!!!)
5. That the state would offer a choice of options on setting reassessment evaluations (not specified) as an alternate to state authorization of point of sale reassessment of owner occupied homes.
There was mention of exempting the cost for school construction from property tax exemption. There was no mention of doing away with the state prohibition on charging impact fees for new school construction which is a real bonanza for developers.
There was mention of the fact that the 2-cent increase in sales taxes would not bring in sufficient revenue to pay for the exemption of personal property such as boats and cars. There was a debate on exempting sales tax on vehicles valued at $5,000 or less. No resolution. Car dealers would be outraged, unless they were in the business of selling cheap cars.
There was no mention of the fact that developers may sit for years on purchased farm or forested land and pay less than the agriculture rate on for speculations. The trees on the land are worth $15 an acre to the speculators. When they develop the land, they are taxed only on the land not the improvements until sold to a new buyer who pays on the value of the land for about a year before both land and improvement is collected on the full valuation.
There was no mention of cutting spending ... not one dime.
There was no mention of the fact that no person on the two committees approached any county auditor for an opinion. County auditors are the experts on the feasibility of the sales tax plans. Those I talked to are extremely unsettled with what is being proposed.
There was mention that the real property tax exemption was an undue benefit for wealthy owners of owner occupied homes as portrayed in a report published recently in a number of newspapers around the state.
Watching the committee members vote on the various proposals reveals, at least to me, a profound unacknowledged willingness to rush this tax relief through without regard to the enormous consequences the impact from their decisions will have on the state's fiscal viability. There is little hope that property tax relief would take effect until 2007, so why the rush? I believe it is to satisfy the clamoring crowd of major money interests for action, any action. For instance, if a large portion of the property valuations are exempt from taxation there is a problem because bonding companies base their evaluation of a states credit worthiness on tax revenues on the total valuation of all property within a state. If large sections are exempted, there is no way to calculate long term tax receipts based on a unreliable, fluctuating sales tax. The credit rating of the state could plummet because buyers of the bonds need assurance that general obligation bonds won't be depended on a state that is headed for bankruptcy before the bonds mature.
Ad valorem taxation should be on the value of the property at the purchase price. Taxing property before sale, based on current prices of what other properties within an area are presently sold and not what the value will be six months or ten years from the present is an outrage. This is not completely ignored by some members of the Senate Judiciary and Finance committees who are interested at point of sale valuations. Ad Valorem in Latin means according to the value not ad nauseam, meaning to the point of disgust or satiety.
Too many loopholes benefit the developers and speculators which can only be the result of their influence within the legislative body. The fact that residential rental property is not included in the markup of the bill and that owner occupied housing or second homes not used for rental purpose will be exempt from taxation is a real boost to the political integrity of the committee. We'll just have to see if rental property tax relief will be later added because of lobbying pressure by the money interests. What is so strange is that at the conclusion of the meeting the refundable tax credit for renters remained in the write up while the tax exemption was removed for rental property. Figure that out, will you?
Creating a law on taxation is like watching sausages being made; it can upset one's stomach.
Dorchester County Taxpayers Association
OUR KINDA READER
I write to congratulate Charleston City Paper for your consistently excellent coverage and reporting on the performing arts in Charleston. The work is superior to most local media coverage of the arts. I particularly enjoyed the depth and clarity of the Nov. 9 cover story, "Their Kind of Town," written by Patrick Sharbaugh. Keep up the good work.
(Mr. Holth is the executive director of Ballet Pro Musica, a nonprofit that puts on ballet festivals around the country. -- Ed.)
CRACKING THE GRAHAM CODE
I should think you would be able to find a sane conservative to replace the Grahamcracker. Bush doesn't lie? ("The Big Lie," Usual Suspects, Views, Nov. 16.) Well, let's see. I distinctly remember that the Bushbaby said on TV several times that "We don't torture." He says that because he changed the definition of torture so that he could pretend he doesn't condone it. I prefer the definition of the Geneva Convention arrived at after a horrendous war and approved by many other nations. On the other hand, we could use John McCain's definition.
Now the Bushbaby always says he selects the most qualified people for his appointments. Even Grahamcracker said Ms. Miers was unqualified, though he seems to forget. Another interpretation might be that Bush is dim-witted, and thus he really got the best he could. I doubt he is dumb, but it is a possibility. Then we can look at his choice to run FEMA and a few other agencies that Time magazine was so helpful in listing. Bushbaby is definitely lying about getting the best people possible.
Finally, let's peak at the Bushbaby's ethics. He is an evangelical Christian, if I am not mistaken. I think they might believe in the Ten Commandments. Anyway, Thou Salt Not Kill is one and he rests his argument for being anti-abortion on that idea. At the same time, he prosecutes a war which he says he got into through mistakes of bad intelligence, etc. This war is killing many innocent people. Now he can't quit because what? If the rationale for war was based on faulty information, there is no moral argument for killing more innocent people. It is murder, plain and simple. So, while he has some new argument for prosecuting the war, it is on the face of it, inconsistent with his religious ethics. One stance or the other is a lie.
I was really glad to see the new www.charlestoncitypaper.com. Besides giving arborealites ("treehuggers") a truly usable and legible alternative to the print copy, the aesthetic of your new site, compared to the last incarnation, seems -- dare I say -- slicker. [Inside joke alert. -- Ed.]
If only the rest of Charleston shared your commitment to self-improvement.Nitin Arora
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