County-level taxing authority?
August 7, 2012 11:36 AM   Subscribe

What states, other than Tennessee, restrict county-level taxing authority to a single elected body?

School boards in Tennessee do not have the authority to levy school taxes. They must go hat in hand every year to a County Commission. This can result in some unforeseen power dynamics.

(Rather than roll over and take a $7 million cut, after years of cuts, the Sumner County School Board has simply declined to open the schools. Story can be found online elsewhere.)

What other states restrict county-level taxing authority to a single elected body like in Tennessee?
posted by John Borrowman to Law & Government (5 answers total)
It's not uncommon for school boards to have no revenue powers. In Virginia, the School Board cannot raise revenue on their own, they are largely funded by property taxes approved by the county Board of Supervisors.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:43 AM on August 7, 2012

I'm not sure I understand how the Tennessee system works, but in Illinois the school board sends a proposed levy (amount we wish to raise) and budget to the county. The county generally approves the levy (sometimes with some minor adjustments within their purview by law, that we're generally aware they're going to do) and the budget and the county determines the rate the school board's tax will be (levy amount divided by equalized assessed value of all taxable property in our district). The county assesses the tax, collects the tax, and distributes the money to taxing bodies within its boundaries. I think that's a pretty typical system, since property assessment and tax collection are expensive activities, and there's no reason to duplicate that across several taxing bodies within one geographical area. So I think the tax collection (and tax monies distribution) being limited to a single body is pretty typical.

I suppose the county could refuse our levy, but I've never heard of that happening.

It's a little unclear from the articles I'm reading if Tennessee funds schools THROUGH counties, or if they simply collect the tax and the county board is refusing the schools' budget. It sounds like the county has a little more authority than it does in Illinois, but the articles are pretty unclear (as tax-related articles in mainstream media often are).

If I talk to my district's financial chief or tax attorneys in the next couple of days, I'll ask them if they have an opinion on Sumner County and come back to this thread. (Not sure if I will, because everyone's gearing up to start the year, but if we do have a lull between meetings or something, I'll ask.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:09 PM on August 7, 2012

Yes, Tennessee funds schools THROUGH counties.

Different question: Are there any particular political/historical commonalities among states that do - or do not - grant revenue power to local school boards?
posted by John Borrowman at 12:23 PM on August 7, 2012

Schools in Indiana have no taxing authority. Additionally, being a public service, they have to put any bond issues (for physical plant improvements, for example) up to a popular vote.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:12 PM on August 7, 2012

Well (sigh), in Alabama without a constitutional amendment, counties themselves don't have revenue power, much less the school boards.
posted by ndfine at 4:01 PM on August 7, 2012

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