The numbers are in and they are shocking.
Franklin County is facing a large tax increase this year that is even higher than the estimates I had been hearing.
Unlike the federal government, state and local governments cannot just print more money to make ends meet. They have to raise revenue or cut expenses.
The property tax increase necessary to fund the county’s projected budget is 24 cents. To put that in perspective, you will pay $60 more in taxes if your property is assessed at $100,000.
How did we get in such a mess?
Our building projects are part of this increase. When the middle schools were being debated, it was widely known that the project would cause an 11-cent tax increase.
The vast majority of the calls and messages I received before that vote were in favor of the schools despite the tax increase.
I can understand the reasoning. We want our children to be in a safe and healthy environment and are willing to pay to make that happen.
The $2 million bond that just passed for the jail expansion is going to require a 3-cent increase to pay for it. We already had a $16 million bond to fund the jail construction prior to the latest one. We have to have money to pay for the increased staffing the larger facility will require once it is finally finished.
Inmate medical expenses have risen roughly $1 million each year for the past two years. All of this requires more money to pay for it.
When the middle-school project passed, I urged my fellow commissioners to “hold the line” on the county’s budget to try and lessen the impact on taxpayers.
To me, holding the line means looking for ways to save money wherever possible. It means not adding unnecessary expenses to projects just because they would be nice to have.
The proposed budget has a 2 percent cost-of-living raise factored in for county employees which accounts for 2 cents of this tax increase.
Our employees are hard-working people. Without them, county government would grind to a halt.
Is it fair to take more money from property owners to give to other people? On the other hand, is it fair for the county employees to not get a cost-of-living raise because of poor management of county finances?
That’s a tough choice to make.
Perhaps what is even more upsetting is next year could require another tax increase of roughly 15 cents unless something changes. Until the county government stops looking at our houses, farms, and businesses as piggy banks waiting to be raided, the spending will continue.
We just celebrated the Fourth of July, a holiday that came about because of a tax revolt. Those of us in county government would be wise to study history before the taxpayers start dumping tea in Tims Ford.
Greg King is the Franklin County District 4, Seat A commissioner and a Decherd police sergeant.