By: Hood Richardson
When most people have the power to make decisions for you, they become autocratic and imagine they are extremely knowledgeable about what is in your best interest. Politicians are the best examples of empowerment abuse.
A fine example is school boards and what to teach children. Another is imposing minimum wage laws. Deciding how much welfare should cost and how long individuals can draw from the public treasury if yet another. Whether or not you may vote without identifying yourself…public-funded abortion…on and on it goes.
Not only has the Beaufort County Commission decided how high to raise your taxes but they keep the accumulated tax surplus without returning it to the tax payer.
Beaufort County Government has a surplus of about 20 million dollars. This money sits in the bank year after year. The money is invested and draws some interest. We get about one eighth of one percent interest. Why so low? State law requires super safe risk in investments and a time frame to allow the county to withdraw the funds should we ask for it or need it. The only highly safe investment that is easily converted to cash is federal government bonds. We earn a pittance of about 1/8th of one percent interest on this money.
During the preparation of this year’s budget Commissioners Deatherage, Walker and myself tried to reduce taxes by using some of this accumulated money. We started with about a 7 percent reduction in taxes. When that failed we moved to 3 percent. That failed. Commissioners Waters, Rebholz, Langley and Booth solidly voted against these reductions. Then Frankie Waters made a motion to reduce taxes by one penny. That is only $700,000 of the 20 million. Because our motions of a meaningful reduction in taxes had failed we took what we could get and voted for the penny.
Twenty million dollars of surplus, with one penny of property tax bringing in seven hundred thousand dollars in revenue, means taxes could be reduced 28 cents at one time. So why are Frankie Waters, Jerry Langley, John Rebholz and Ed Booth so arrogant and selfish with your money?
Because, they have been empowered to make decisions for you and their control of that money makes them feel powerful. It guarantees that they will not have to raise taxes. It guarantees county expenses can be increased without raising taxes. This is how spending increases every year without taxes being raised. This is how these big spenders pull the wool over your eyes. This keeps them in office. It gives them the ability to fund their pet projects, things like the Beaufort County Park at Wrights Creek.
Ride around town and the county and count the empty business buildings. Many of those businesses could not pay there taxes so they had to shut their doors. It is unconscionable that the Gang of Four would not give these struggling small businesses a break and reduce their property taxes.
But many people do not own real estate. They rent. But renter—be they individuals or businesses—pay property taxes in their rent. Thus, landlords have to raise rent to pay the high taxes. This hurts everyone, not just the property owners. It is just selfish for the County to be sitting on $20 million while small businesses have to close up or are not able to replace equipment when needed. High taxes drain the local economy.
Returning this money to the rightful owners, the taxpayers of Beaufort County, would do good things for our economy. A five-million-dollar reduction in next year’s taxes is five million dollars of stimulus for Beaufort County. Most of that money will be circulated several times among our residents, creating jobs and growing the local economy…which causes county revenue to go up.
The situation of the County hoarding money has become more serious during the past few years. Sales taxes and other fees have increased, adding to the surplus. These four commissioners simply spend the surplus and the average citizen is none the wiser. This system works fine until hard times come, tax collections falter and suddenly, during a recession or depression the Commissioners are forced to raise taxes (or cut spending). Then the voters remove these tax and spend commissioners, but it is too late, the damage was done during preceding years.
The situation is exacerbated by what is happening in the national economy. Bideninflation is up 30%, to the highest level it has been in our lifetimes. Inflation is a tax you pay every time you buy something. Gasoline and diesel are higher than they have been in recent memory. That drains money out of the local economy and sends it out of state. People of fixed incomes (anyone who cannot raise their income to match increased costs) suffer. And for many in Beaufort County this suffering is very real. Meanwhile this Gang of Four commissioners refuses to give these people relief.
The Constitution of the State of North Carolina intends that Commissioners tax the public for continuing operations, and allows us to borrow money for capital projects like school buildings and jails, etc. This practice is good management. It keeps the public directly involved in the expense of County government. It allows the public to keep their money for their benefit. The public knows when spending increases because their taxes go up. It guarantees politicians cannot hide government growth.
It is notable that this Gang of Four--Waters, Rebholz, Langley and Booth are the same group that votes to pass the budget, voted not to investigate the Bruce Gray situation, have voted for all increases in the budget and control the Board of County Commissioners.
Voters should take note that two of the Gang of Four are Republicans and two are Democrats. It is an affront to Republicans that, with five Republicans on the Board and two Democrats, the Democrats control the Board. How can that be? The Answer is easy. The two Republicans (RINOS) are voting with the Democrats. Three other Republicans are voting like Republicans.
County revenue this year is increasing, and we have the 20 million surplus. The three conservatives on the board will be making the motion to reduce the tax rate 10 percent again this year. Frankie Waters may be running for reelection in 2022. Is Frankie going to support a meaningful tax reduction or is he going to continue to use the surplus to hide increases in County spending. The Gang of Four is more interested in growing government than they are in allowing you to spend your money as you see fit.
This is how county and state governments continue to grow without the people’s consent.
You need to help put a stop to this by voting against any candidate who votes to raise taxes, or not to make a significant reduction in the tax rate.
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