By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
Myth 1 — half cent or full cent?
This is a great scare tactic, Mr. Helm, but again it is simply not true. There is a difference between preliminary discussions and final proposals. The final proposal is half-cent sales tax. The question that remains is why would you try to mislead the public? Is it because this is a solid plan and so only distorting the facts could harm its chances of passing?
The fact is the city commission has voted to allow the community to vote on a half-cent sales tax for the purpose of improving the schools. There has been no other votes taken on any other sales tax proposals.
If that’s not enough, City Manager Mark Hall said that the current proposal is only a half cent for the schools and that “any future sales tax needs or proposals will be considered as they arise.”
Myth 2 — More schools will run Liberal out of water
Mr. Helm does not refute this myth.
Myth 3 — National Beef will close any day
Mr. Helm is again spreading fear that is similar to those who believe a zombie invasion is imminent. This is a common political tactic. If you don’t have a better idea, use fear to try to scare people into voting no. Perhaps Mr. Helm has no faith in the beef industry that has been in operation in Liberal for more than 60 years. Perhaps he has overlooked the fact that other investors want to buy the plant if the current owners would ever sell it. For as much of living in fear about the plant’s future there is just as much optimism about the plant’s future. But we can count on Mr. Helm to share only the doom and gloom, and as he said, believing the plant will be open for the next 25 years is opinion. but it is based on history and profitability of the plant. His fear of it closing is based on no local evidence at all.
Myth 4 — Only $100,000-plus homes will pay the tax
Mr. Helm does not refute this myth.
Myth 5 — Most of Liberal’s population rents their home and won’t pay
That is Mr. Helm’s conclusion, and it might have some validity. The good news is we are sharing with the renters exactly what any increase should be. If they are renting a $100,000 home, they should see no more than a $9.49 cent per month rate increase. Anything more is gouging. But it is Mr. Helm’s intent to scare renters to not invest in schools or pay for community enhancements. Some may wonder what his interest is in education at all.
Myth 6 — Liberal’s sales tax will be the highest in the region
Mr. Helm refers to taxes that are not a part of this plan. He also uses a $235,000 home as an example to inflate his numbers. The median value according to the U.S. Census of a home in Liberal is $85,600. So Mr. Helm intentionally used a home almost three times the average and certainly not representative of very many in Liberal. He also fails to recognize that Liberal is less than Dodge City, which has more homes to tax, and more than Garden City, which also has more homes to tax. More homes mean more taxes collected, wouldn’t you agree, Mr. Helm? But let’s not present the facts, let’s cherry pick stats in an effort to mislead.
He doesn’t mention how taxes on oil and gas influence the tax base and other factors that are in the property owner’s favor, only the scare tactics of homes worth near a quarter of a million dollars. Again, he can’t refute the myth, so he jumps to confuse the issue with the multi-layered tax systems all communities use. And when comparing the two Oklahoma communities, I sought the five communities of similar size closest to Liberal. Perhaps Mr. Helm is unaware that the Oklahoma state line is only three miles away.
Mr. Helm is again intentionally trying to mislead you. The myth was, “Liberal’s sales tax will be the highest in the region.” When the evidence clearly shows that the sales tax will be right down the middle, he still states it is ‘somewhat true’ that the sales tax will be ‘the’ highest in the region. I also cannot tell if Mr. Helm is endorsing the illegal practice of tagging cars in another state.
Avoiding the sales tax on vehicle purchases is no longer an option. Three years ago the state changed the rules on purchasing cars in other locations. Wherever the vehicle is tagged, the state will collect the sales tax rate for that community. I am sure Mr. Helm is aware of that, but is seems strange he didn’t want you to know that.
Mr. Helm, we get it. You are against the proposal. It seems you believe that $1 to upgrade the schools is too much, because your fear tactics mean we should never, ever pass a bond of any kind.
Since you have not shared any alternatives at the public meetings you attended, it must be that you are satisfied with 87-year-old buildings and concentration-camp shacks as an adequate education system. You must believe it is acceptable to allow more than the board-set limits of students per classroom, and you must think it is a can that we can kick down the road again, and again, and again as the price tag continues to get higher and higher and higher. It must be your belief that getting the state to pay for half of the project resulting in a $63.5 million investment in Liberal by the State of Kansas is an investment you simply don’t want to accept. And you must think that getting everyone who shops in Liberal to help with the upgrades isn’t the best way to share in the cost. Maybe you want home owners to pay 100 percent of the costs of school upgrades rather than the current plan that has reduced that number to 29 percent. You would rather wait until bills like SB 305 are passed and do away with matching funds, forcing your local constituents to get no state support.
You must believe Liberal doesn’t need any economic development or housing enhancements that history has shown accompanies school improvements, and you must be satisfied with contributing through your state tax dollars improvements in Garden City rather than Liberal, and you must also support sales tax dollars going to Garden City rather than shopping in Liberal so that more of those shopping dollars could stay home. Until Liberal invests in schools which will lead to more homes which will lead to more business, your plan is to support other communities with our tax dollars like Garden City, because that is what we are doing right now.
The only way Mr. Helm’s tactics work is if he believes we all join in his belief of Big Foot. He’s big, he’s scary, but he is not real.
Mr. Helm, it is your right to oppose the plan, but you better tell the voters what a no vote will cost them later when interest rates for bonds are higher than the all-time lows of today. You better show them how voting no will mean that any future plans will never be as low as 29 percent. You better tell them the truth that if the district has to make improvements without a bond that the mill levy will still increase but you will continue to have trailer house schools at the same price as modern facilities this plan offers without 71 percent of the funding coming from sources other than the mill levy.
Tell the truth about what a no vote will cost, Mr. Helm. Share the facts.