When you can’t reasonably, logically, factually, or rationally argue the merits of an assertion, attack the veracity or the character of the person making the assertion. There’s a Latin phrase for it, victima argumentum ad hominem, and it’s an idea that’s been around for quite some time. In political terms, ‘if you don’t like the message, attack the messenger!’ It’s also a concept that’s getting a good deal of use here in Lee County during the course of this year’s budget discussions.
Conceptually, budgets are very simple things, regardless of the organization. Every organization has a list of things that it MUST accomplish over the period covered by the budget; it probably has a list of things that it SHOULD accomplish given sufficient time and resources; and may well have a third list of the things it would LIKE to accomplish if there are resources left after the MUST do list and the SHOULD do list are sufficiently resourced. In the case of Lee County, the chief resource is publically collected funds, i.e., tax dollars. Also in the case of Lee County there aren’t enough of them available again this next year to accomplish everything that all Lee County public entities MUST, SHOULD, and would LIKE to do. This is where it begins to get complicated and adversarial.
The LCSS is required to provide a sound basic education for the school-aged population (6-18 yearolds) of this county. For that purpose it receives a per student allocation of funding from the State of North Carolina and an additional allocation of funding from the U.S. Federal Government for specifically directed purposes. The Lee County Government is obliged to arrange for adequate facilities from which the LCSS will provide that sound, basic education. For this purpose, Lee County must levy and collect local taxes from the citizens of the Lee County. Now if that’s all that was being done to provide a sound basic education, conducted in adequate facilities, there’d be plenty of money for ALL of Lee County’s MUST do items, even in current economic times. Yet, Lee County has a budget crisis. There simply are not sufficient tax dollars available, without raising the tax rates, to meet the demands placed on them.
Because the LCSS does more than provide a simple, sound basic education for the youth of LeeCounty, it desires more funding to accomplish its goals than the State of North Carolina is willing to provide. That funding must come from the Lee County taxpayers as approved by the county commissioners. These funds are above and beyond that which Lee County is obligated to provide. It’s also an amount that must compete against the county’s departmental MUST, SHOULD, and LIKE to do lists. The duty to balance these myriad competing requirements against the available funds rests solely with the Lee County Board of Commissioners. Herein lies the rationale for the personal attacks: there aren’t enough tax dollars to do everything everyone wants to do, so the commissioners must be goaded into providing more resources for public schools .
Commissioners recently began delving into the prioritization of requirements (MUST, SHOULD, or LIKE) and they already have found the LCSS hasn’t provided the necessary information to identify priorities. Historically, Dr. Moss has claimed perogative in not divulging his priorities; even to the LCBOE. In like manner, the LCBOE hasn’t stated any priorities, and apparently doesn’t know what Dr. Moss’ are. Commissioners have collectively and individually requested of Dr. Moss the information they need to complete the budget. For this they have become victima argumentum ad hominem, which accomplishes nothing. Attacking the persona of the commissioners does nothing to answer the Lee County budget issues. It doesn’t resource the schools, or the Sheriff Department, or any of the other services found in this county. If attacks need be made, focus them at the LCBOE and its employee, Dr. Moss. Get these officials to do their jobs and answer the questions being asked, devoid of sarcasm, vitriole and personal attack.