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  • Where Does Your Tax Money Go?

    In 1995, the federal government collected more than $1 trillion in taxes. In Georgia the same year it was nearly $10 billion. That money funds a variety of projects and programs used by Georgia citizens.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. Give your opinion of the five most valuable ways in which taxes are spent. Justify the reasons these are the most valuable.

    2. What would be some of the effects on the people and the operation of the state government if the most valuable of the tax-paid services were not offered?

    3. Give your opinion of the five least valuable ways in which taxes are spent. Justify the reasons these are the least valuable.

    4. Conduct an internet search to find out what the budget for the state of Georgia looks like. Go through and pick out the education projects that are being funded for your school system. Add them up. How much is your school system benefiting from the state of Georgia budget?

    5. What is SPLOST? What is it used for? Why is it necessary to vote on it?

    Expansion

    1. Set up and conduct a fictional town meeting in which there is an issue that involves tax payer’s money, such as:

    • mayor’s salary (what does the mayor do to justify his salary?)
    • construct a new government building (or repair the old one?)
    • construct a local dog pound because of all the stray dogs in the neighborhood (since the county dog pound is overcrowded and too many animals are being put to sleep)
    • repair the roads in the area that have too many pot holes in them and are a danger to cars and bicycles
    • there is a need for an off-road vehicle facility which can be used by local groups of ATV enthusiasts
    • there is the need for a shooting range for those who would like to shoot skeet or just for safe target-practice, etc.
    • (class brainstorming to come up with an issue of interest to the students)
    • Research the one issue (above) that the class votes to do. Divide the class into those who are for it and those who are against it. The teacher should act as mayor or county commission chairman. Elect at least three students to act as town council members or county commissioners.
    • Conduct the meeting allowing all sides to have their say on the issue. The council members/ commissioners may ask questions or make statements.
    • When all have had their say, the mayor/commission chairman and members/commissioners should meet together in front of the class to decide what should be done (open meetings law). The mayor/commission chairman should announce the decision and explain the reasons for it.

    2. Write a letter to the governor or your state representative about a state issue that involves taxpayer money. Express your opinion and what you think needs to be done to correct the problem or why it is a good program as it is. Send this to the elected official asking for a response.

    Vocabulary

    fiscal year: any twelve-month period used as a basis for settling financial accounts in a business or government (The fiscal year of the U.S. government begins July 1.)
    expenditure: that which is paid out or used up such as money, time, or effort sales
    taxes: general tax placed on the sale of goods, usually added on as a flat percentage (i.e., 6%) of the selling price of an item
    income taxes: tax levied on personal and corporate incomes, with certain legally permitted deductions

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. Give your opinion of the five most valuable ways in which taxes are spent. Justify the reasons these are the most valuable.
    (Even though this is an opinion, students should justify their answer to indicate that these are critical areas that must be provided in order for the people to live in an orderly society. They should indicate that without these services, the populace would be in danger of anarchy from certain groups that would not work for the common good.)

    2. What would be some of the effects on the people and the operation of the state government if the most valuable of the tax-paid services were not offered?
    These services must be provided in order to keep people feeling safe in an orderly society. Without these areas being paid out of public funds, the public would be in danger of being taken over by a certain group which might not have concern about the general welfare of all people.

    3. Give your opinion of the five least valuable ways in which taxes are spent. Justify the reasons these are the least valuable.
    (While this is an opinion, students should justify their answer to indicate that these services are not critical to provide for the common good, or that these are areas that could be supported with private funds or institutions.)

    4. Conduct an internet search to find out what the budget for the state of Georgia looks like. Go through and pick out the education projects that are being funded for your school system. Add them up. How much is your school system benefiting from the state of Georgia budget?
    By using a search engine, you can find this website: (Office of Planning and Budget) which will give you many, many pages of budget expenditures. Page-down or scroll through the departments until you find schools or education. Find your system and note the amount of money being spent there and for what the funds are used. This could be done as a class or in groups. Come back together to talk about how your school system benefits from the taxes paid by their parents.

    5. What is SPLOST? What is it used for? Why is it necessary to vote on it?
    SPLOST stands for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. It is used by a county to fund a project that is urgently needed but the county cannot afford with present resources. It must find a way to get this money for the project. For the most part, SPLOST is used for roads and schools. The county must petition the people for this money, which usually comes from raising the sales tax on goods and services by one penny within that county. The people must vote on this by going to the polls and voting “yes” or “no.” If a majority votes “yes” for the extra penny sales tax, it becomes a law and by a certain date, the sales tax goes into effect. If the people do not want this particular project to be done, they will vote “no.” In this way, everyone has had their say in the democratic process: one person/one vote. This is the way our country has founded its government: by the will of the people. Even a penny sales tax must be voted upon by the people.

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