Publisher's note: This editorial by the Beaufort Observer explains a good bit of how we, in Beaufort County, have gotten to the point we are now. I have it on good authority that this will not be the Observer's last editorial explaining the situation.
Here's how: Just undo the mistakes you've made over the last few years.
Editor's note (Beaufort Observer): This editorial begins a series we will be doing on the current fiscal crisis facing our county, state and nation. In this first installment we address the resistance of two Republican County Commissioners (who brand themselves as "conservatives") to holding the line on taxes.
Buzz Cayton, the chair of the local Beaufort Patriot Tea Party, got it exactly right (pardon the pun) when he told the County Commissioners on April 4 that this nation, state and county face a crisis. Indeed and we doubt that many knowledgeable people would contest that.
Typically the paragraph following the one above would offer a number of facts and figures to support the assertion that the crisis is of such magnitude that the numbers would show that the status quo simply cannot be sustained. But we're not going to digress into a litany of numbers and facts. If you don't already believe something has got to change then we think you are either incapable or unwilling to face reality and not much we can say will change that.
We actually believe most people see the imperative for a major change in the way our government...at all levels... does business.
Unfortunately, we have five members of the Beaufort County Commission who fit into that "unable or unwilling" mindset. They are: Robert Cayton, Jerry Langley, Jay McRoy, Ed Booth and Al Klemm. Ironically, two of the five (McRoy and Klemm) fashion themselves as "conservatives."
Faced with what they did not rebut...that the county is broke and the reason it is broke is because these five commissioners have been unwilling to keep their spending within the available revenue but rather have dipped into our savings account to fund recurring expenditures...these five commissioners refused to take even a meager step of making a commitment to spend no more than they take in, without raising taxes.
This action reminds us of the credit card junkie who simply cannot or will not stop spending but continues to run up debt on credit cards that he/she can never pay off. The five commissioners apparently believe they can just go back to the taxpayers for more money just as the junkie is addicted to his/her credit cards.
Saying that, we believe, reveals the real problem in Beaufort County (and that includes the City of Washington City Council and the Beaufort County School Board) is faced with and that is it is a sick mindset. These people are addicted to spending.
The most recent example can be seen in Jay McRoy's comments in Monday (4-4-11) night's meeting when he argued that "you can't cut the budget without cutting the schools, community college or law enforcement." Watch the video below and you hear him say several different ways: "you can't cut..." spending.
So let us make our position very clear: If Mr. McRoy "can't cut" spending he should resign and allow someone who can help make the county live within its means. Deficit spending simply has got to be stopped. And raises taxes is not an acceptable alternative.
We find it not just disingenuous but outright dishonest for Mr. McRoy to try to contend that the $2.7 million in school bond debt means you can't cut overall spending. That is pure hogwash.
Here's the proof. All Mr. McRoy would have had to do Monday night was make a motion that every line item in next year's budget be no higher than it was in 2006. Five years ago, when the county should have been getting its house in order.
The school bond debt service was included in the budget in 2006. So a roll-back to 2006 would not endanger that obligation.
There have been relatively few raises in salaries but those could be covered by having the staff compute how much it would cost to hold harmless every person's salary to where it is this year. Hopefully the increase in the base since 2006 would cover the current salaries. We don't know how those numbers would come out, but that's not the point. The point is you start out with a mindset that you're going to get your financial house in order and then work from there.
And if Mr. McRoy wants to try to dump on the schools then we must remind him that the current tax rate could be retained by simply deducting the "Chickengate" cost that has been imposed on the taxpayers for the last four years. And Mr. McRoy knows why the Chickengate deal was done. It was to protect his legal hide and he should be ashamed of trying to use that to impose a tax increase on the people and small business of this county. We'll have more on that in the next installment.
But for now, in this first installment, let us end by making our point clear: Beaufort County must cut spending. It must not raise taxes in this economic climate. And it can be done. If any commissioner thinks it can't be done they should step down and let someone who can get the job done. And the vote ought to be 7-0 to get the job done.