County Commission’s vote not to kick in a little extra support to the Crestpointe project is sort of old news — almost two weeks old now — but Commissioner Whitey Hitchcock’s response in the form of a column yesterday is still fresh.
Whitey is one of my two County Commissioners, and the only one to vote against it.Â Following is the note I sent to him today:
I was out of town for Spring Break when I read, with considerable dismay, that you were among the three Oak Ridge Commissioners who voted against redirecting roughly $97k/year in potential property taxes on the proposed Target site.Â I agree that it is my own fault for not conveying my opinion to you in advance of the vote, as you were very responsive to me on the issue of the sessions court move.Â Given your involvement in education, I mistakenly believed that my input was unnecessary â€“ it seemed silly to think that you could be opposed, given the low risk and high potential benefit.
As a member of the Oak Ridge Board of Education who has been very involved in school finance issues for several years, I fully understand the breakdown in distribution of local tax dollars for education between the three school systems in the County; this project would be beneficial to all of us. Â That the County schools receive roughly twice as much as Oak Ridge schools is simply a matter of pupil population.Â But, following the Countyâ€™s successful vote to supersede our sales tax rate last year, you must also know that Oak Ridge is in dire need of replacing not only the sales tax revenue lost to the County, but also the sales tax revenues that have declined in real dollars over the past several years.
I also know (as I strongly suspect that you do) that a Commission vote in favor of this tax redirection would have had absolutely no impact on whether or not the citizens would be able to vote on the matter in a referendum; that question is predicated solely upon the number of valid signatures on the petition.Â In contrast, the Commissionâ€™s â€œnoâ€ vote does lessen the likelihood that the referendum will succeed.Â Many people question why Oak Ridge should bear all of the risk, while the County recognizes the greatest benefit.
Should Commission have voted in favor of this proposal but the referendum be defeated in June, it would be a moot issue.Â You would not have usurped any citizenâ€™s choice in the matter.
We, in Oak Ridge, are more heavily reliant on property taxes to fund education (via allocations from the City General fund, as well as from Anderson County) than any other school system in the region.Â For us to prosper in terms of retail development is of critical importance, but it also helps our counterparts in Clinton and Anderson County, whose schools are not suffering an embarrassment of riches, either.
I respectfully ask that you publicly commit to voting in favor of this request before the start of early voting on May 16, in order to mitigate the harm already caused.
[Netmom],Â District 6
Unlike Whitey, neither Shuey nor Creasey have given any public explanation that I know of.Â If anyone’s heard from them, I’d love to hear their explanation.