In March 19 IssueBy Wade Daffron, Columnist
I'll have to admit I'm shocked over the apparent demise of the proposed, occupational tax hike by the Russell County Fiscal Court.
Like so many other things, I assumed (never should do that) it was one of those "done deals" discussed long before butts ever hit the chairs at a public meeting.
Usually, the government (be it local, state, or federal) gets what it wants, how it wants it, and when it wants it.
But way every once in a while (especially when it affects their pocketbook) the public will rise up and let their feelings be known.
Raising taxes at this point and time is NOT a good idea.
Sure, it's always an option, but, as has been shown, people are just absolutely not willing to consider it.
We don't know from one day to the next how much we will be paying for gas, if we will keep our jobs, or if we are about to be engulfed in a cloud of radiation from ravaged Japan.
So raising taxes is kinda of a "no-no" right now.
If nothing else, it's just not good "PR."
Interestingly (Is that a word?) enough, people may have been a little more receptive if the county exercised the option of raising their occupational tax "slightly" instead of tripling it.
At a meeting Monday night, voices of reason soared over the discussion and debate.
One of the loudest and strongest of such was phenomenally successful, local businessman Terry Stephens. (I certainly believe he should be considered a credible authority.)
He questioned why the court wanted to use the tax increase to raise an estimated $1.8 million when facing a reported deficit of $200,000.
OK, let's see here, I suck at math, but if you take away $200,000 from $1.8 million, that leaves you with around $1.6…
I could understand wanting a little "cushion," but…
Mike Adams, who could be considered a "champion of the people" (I've heard him speak at meeting before, and he usually represents the feelings of the masses), wondered aloud why the county hadn't made "cuts" first, instead of opting for an "easy" out of raising taxes.
Believe he's got a point there.
There's nothing wrong with trying "a" (making cuts) before moving to "b" (raising taxes) to reach "c" (balanced budget).
If the county made cuts, and saw things still weren't going to work out, then they might have not met such resistance to the possibility of (slightly) raising the occupational fee.
What happens now?
You can almost bet that people will start complaining when they start to see a disruption in services.
Can't get a pothole fixed when you basically have no county road crew.
There's been discussion about the Deputy County Judge-who has reportedly now been laid off.
He's actually very sharp, and probably had something to bring to the table as far as the future of the county.
Most of you may not know that many county judges (including past, local judges) have had "deputy" or "assistant" county judges, or at least relied on staff for support, or delegated duties to them.
As much as we may hate to admit, times are tough.
Tough times call for tough decisions.
So, who "won" the tax war.
Well, workers are happy not to have even more money taken out of their checks.
Businesses are probably glad to not have more bureaucracy to deal with.
But at this time, the county is still facing a deficit.
Which probably means its growth will be stunted, if not thwarted entirely.
Please don't think this problem is unique to Russell County.
It's occurring all over the United States.
Are you aware Michigan is pursuing "financial martial law" which would allow their state to come in and take over financially-troubled cities, school systems and such, and also have "emergency managers" to break contracts and fire local elected officials?
Could that happen here?
As the deadline approaches for the county to have a balanced budget in place, there is the distinct possibility the state could "come in and take us over," Judge Executive Gary Robertson said.
I doubt anyone wants that to happen.
We've argued, fussed, discussed, debated.
Heard some good ideas, heard some bad ideas.
Now, are we all willing to work together to get something done?
*Information was obtained from an article in the March 17, 2011 The Times Journal by Editor Derek Aaron