Just a little over a year ago, the County Commission, by a vote of 6 to 4, voted to raise the property tax rate by 21%. This was the largest property tax increase ever passed in the recorded history of the County; and keep in mind this came on the heels of what could only be described as the highest reappraisals most of us had ever seen. So, most of the property owners got a double slap. At least four of we commissioners would not support the increase based on the fact that we felt there was no particular reason for a tax increase at this time. In all fairness, the commissioners who did support the increase cited the reports of our CTAS representative as one of the main reasons to raise the taxes. If you believed all the dire reports coming from Mr. Woody, it did sound as though the County was facing a financial disaster. However is you looked at the true facts and figures, one could tell that the predictions of Mr. Woody were far from correct. Even though the true numbers were presented to the commission time after time, Some still opted to follow the "we're broke" predictions. If I remember correctly the predictions were: break even if we're lucky, and best case the reserve might be a few hundred thousand.
Time has a way of proving or disproving predictions. We now know that all the dire predictions were wrong, dead wrong. In fact, when the books were closed and all was said and done, the County general reserve was larger and stronger than it had been for years. $1.3 million dollars. How now do we justify the mega tax increase? It can't be done. Given what we know now, there is absolutely no justifiable rationale for having passed any tax increase. Alas, hind sight is 20/20, but how do we make things right by the tax payers?
Obviously we can't undo the damage already done by the overtaxing of the citizens, but we can put things back on their proper course. The property tax rate should be returned to the certified rate of $1.52, the rate prior to last year's unnecessary increase. Given the fact that we now know that the increase was entirely unnecessary and that the decision to raise the tax rate was based on very erroneous information, it is absolutely essential that we return the rate back to the appropriate level. If we do not, the citizens will be entirely justified in believing that we, the commission, all but perpetrated a hoax on them just to raise their taxes. To make an error in judgment and decision based on faulty information is one thing, but to continue to hold to an error in judgment and decision knowing the true facts, is another thing altogether.
I know there can be many arguments made for continuing to keep the tax rate artificially high, not the least of which is that tired, worn out mantra "the schools need more money." But, if anyone thinks the schools will ever have enough money, that's just wrong. There would not be enough money in the world to satisfy their spending. Maybe it is time they learn to live with what they have and not what they want.
I will go back to a phrase that I know many of you tire of hearing me say, but it is so true. If you give money to the government they will spend it. The only way to stop government spending is to stop giving them the money. If you don't believe it, note this. This fiscal year (7/1/05-Present) amendments to increase revenue totaled $1,324,875. Amendments to increase expenditures totaled $1,203,641. You do the math.
For the official record, put me down as a vote for a roll back of the tax rate to the 2005 certified tax rate of $1.52 and make the budgets fit the revenues.