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The Scoop 8-25
Read my lips, no new taxes
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The Southern Standard conducted an online reader survey two months ago that asked this question:
Do you think it helps or hurts our county to have gone 14 years without a tax increase?
I was surprised to see 55 percent of respondents said it hurts our county, according to the newspaper's nonscientific survey. I thought the number would be way lower.
This shows Warren County residents realize that always cutting costs and consistently operating on a shoestring budget is not always in the best interest of the community.
I compare it to stiffing the waitress by not leaving a tip at a restaurant. Sure the overall bill will be lower and you'll keep a little extra money in your pocket, but it won't help the waitress.
Some members of our County Commission have a paralyzing fear of raising the property tax rate. They won't do it. After Monday night's vote, I'm pleased to report it's now been 15 years since county government has enacted a tax increase.
I think what's most important to stress is the county's overall budget has not remained the same over those 15 years. The budget which passed Monday night calls for $86 million in county spending.
Looking through my files, I found a county budget from 2006-07 that called for $66.7 million in spending. That means in the span of 11 years, the county budget has increased nearly $20 million.
In talking to county director of accounts Linda Hillis on Thursday, she told me some of that $20 million budget increase is due to greater federal and state contributions to our county budget, especially in education.
But much of the increase is due to our county's growth too. Take, for example, the empty lot that was once located across from Sonic on The Strip.
As a field with grass and gravel, the property wasn't worth much. But in the last couple years that empty lot has become home to Bojangles and a new Captain D's. Due to construction, that property is now worth much more, without the county passing a tax increase.
This can get to be technical stuff and not exactly bedtime reading material, but we can see how our county has grown over the past 15 years by the value of 1 cent of county property tax.
During the 2002-03 budget year, every 1 cent of property tax generated $43,625 for the county. That means if the county would have raised taxes by 10 cents, it would have translated to $436,250 in extra revenue 15 years ago.
Today, every 1 cent in property tax is equal to $65,600. That means a 10-cent property tax increase will now generate $656,000.
When talking about tax increases and county funding, the more telling figure to examine is the county's total budget, which is nearly $20 million more than it was just 11 years ago.
To say the county is stuck in neutral while our funding has increased over $1.8 million a year doesn't seem accurate.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.