For those who don’t know, before I retired, I spent almost thirty years working for the N.C. Department of Revenue. Yes, I had a job as the dreaded tax man. But hey, someone has to make sure there is enough money in the state’s coffers to pay for those roads, buildings, schools, and the people who work in them.
It was a difficult job. It’s never easy trying to separate people from their money. Knowing that, I often had people say to me, “Don’t you wish everyone would pay their taxes?”
My usual response was, “No! Are you kidding? Then I wouldn’t have a job!”
I know my official job description as a revenue officer was to collect funds for the state of North Carolina and assist taxpayers. In fact, the official mission statement of the N.C. Dept. of Revenue is, “to fund public services benefiting the people of North Carolina, we administer the tax laws and collect the taxes due in an impartial, consistent, and efficient manner.”
That sounds like good government speak. But, as for me, my true job description was to do my job well enough to keep my job, and hopefully advance in my career. Did I want those folks I was dealing with to be less aggravating and difficult? Yes. But did I want everyone to pay their taxes? No, because then I wouldn’t have a job!
Over the years, I have realized my personal job description applies in similar ways to other areas. This is especially true of organizations. They may be civic groups, charitable organizations, government programs, political parties, and even churches. Whatever the group or organization, most, like the N.C. Dept. of Revenue, have a mission statement and defined goals. And they may achieve those goals and accomplish much good.
But underneath those goals and mission statements is an unstated goal that you will never see in writing. And it is similar to my goal of keeping my job and advancing my career. It’s simply, the overriding goal of any organization is the continuation and growth of that organization.
That’s why when I would attend conferences with my civic club, most of the training seminars were about how to grow your club, or how to keep from losing members. That’s why you see organizations that started for one specific purpose, change direction when the original purpose is not so needed anymore. That’s why you see churches being more concerned about “keeping the church doors open,” than its mission. That’s why you see political parties compromise their standards in order to achieve victory and remain relevant. That’s why once a government program is created, it seldom goes away. The organization, the system, will do what it can to keep itself in existence and operating.
That doesn’t mean that there are not good people in those organizations working hard, doing the best they can, trying to achieve goals. But often it ends up being working hard to justify the organization’s existence, to justify its continuation. And I have been there, when revenue offices I managed were closed due to consolidation.
Speaking of consolidation, why are there still two school systems in Sampson County? Is it in order to better fulfill the goal of better education for all the students of this county? Is it the most efficient use of taxpayer’s funds? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s that’s overriding goal mentioned earlier. Maybe it’s the unwritten goal of keeping both systems going and growing, and to justify their existence.
According to government projections, Sampson County is projected to experience little or no growth in population over the next twenty years. Certain parts of the county have experienced growth in recent years, and are projected to have continued growth. Other sections of the county will not, and may even experience a decline in population. Careful planning and leadership by local political leaders now could avoid possible difficult times for students and educators in the future.
In closing, here’s a simple math question, or at least it should be. One student lives five miles from Clinton High School. Another student lives fifteen miles from Clinton High School. Which student gets to go the Clinton High School? It’s the student that lives fifteen miles away, which is in the Clinton school district, while the student who lives five miles away is not in the Clinton school district. That new math is complicated, isn’t it?
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]