Taxes kill economies and ours is dying

Published 6:25 pm Friday, May 20, 2016

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners is discussing the proposed budget for July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017. It is, yet another, link in a chain of chronic efforts to waste taxpayer money.

Property taxes will increase by $1.2 million. Solid waste fees charged to taxpayers will increase by $1.05 million. New sales taxes being charged on services will raise an additional $575,000. After having raised taxes on local families by $2.825 million, the expenditures being outlined by the new budget will still run $919,000 in the red.

In just two years, our commissioners spent a $7 million surplus balance received a $575,000 windfall from the sales tax from the state and have still been forced to raise taxes by $2.25 million. Not one program that received any of this $7 million in funding was even dreamed about in 2014 when county residents were being browbeaten into accepting the $40 million “no vote” jail. In fact, in 2014 we were told that all the county’s needs were well met for years into the future and that 2014 was an ideal time to put ourselves on the hook for a generation’s worth of debt. But, when the jail was defeated, the cash that the jail’s sponsors had stockpiled rather than provide proper maintenance for schools, courthouse and capital equipment was thrown away in a spontaneous burst of spending on VOA studies, recreational boat ramps, security guard boondoggles, a restructuring of the EMS that neither the City of Washington nor the Town of Aurora want any part of, and a 10 percent increase in county employees. Remember, no one had ever even imagined these expenditures were anything like necessary until the commissioners found themselves with $7 million to burn.

If there were anything that Beaufort County politics seems to excel in besides deficits it would be comedy. In the very meeting that the board announced its brand new deficit budget, a budget that after depleting all of its reserves still needed $2.8 million in new taxes just to stay $1 million in deficit, the board was advised of extensive repairs that need to be undertaken at the long-neglected courthouse building. Now that the $7 million is gone, the long-term chairman of the county board, Jerry Langley, mentioned that he has long been acutely aware of the worsening condition of the courthouse and considers it a shameful lack of oversight that this was not addressed in a coherent fashion years ago.

Now that is some very funny stuff.

Mr. Langley has been the county board’s “majority whip” and chairman for what seems like a millennium. In all fairness, the buck needs to stop with Mr. Langley. If Mr. Langley had called for a commitment to earmark funds for the maintenance of buildings and equipment, while publically committing to spending reductions and lower taxes, then we would not be in this mess. Without such a commitment from Mr. Langley, taxpayers will soon see further tax increases cause even further deterioration in the local economy.

Taxes kill economies and ours is dying.

Warren Smith is a Beaufort County resident.