July 7, 2014
Don’t let the BOC misrepresent the recent property tax increase by using “new math” to explain it.
The expenditures shown in the new FY15 budget are $1,000,000 more than the FY14 budget. The BOC raised your property taxes 2.15 mils and transferred money from the Curbside fund to have enough money to pay for all these expenditures. Total expenditures are $9,299,012.
Here’s an example of how the new math the BOC uses works. Let’s say you have an annual household budget of $30,000. Your income is only $25,000, but you happen to have $5,000 saved up in a special account. You decide to use that $5,000 to meet your $30,000 budget. According to the BOC that $5,000 miraculously does away with $5,000 of expenses, and according to their new math, you only spend $25,000. Reality is you spent $30,000! Yep! But according to Comm. Trammell, the county manager, and the rest of the BOC, they can transfer $480,000 out of another account and somehow $480,000 of expenses disappear, the budget becomes $8,819,001, and they say that is all they are going to spend because the savings they used doesn’t count!
Half-truths and smoke and mirrors have been used a lot by the BOC during this budget process and in setting the millage rate. They have taken a page out of Congress’ play book.
Here’s how the budget process really worked. They took last year’s budget ($8,289,600) and let all the departments, including their department, add to the budget with their needs and their wants —such as laptops for each of the commissioners. This new budget also included a proposed increase in health insurance from the previous year of over $200,000. Then the BOC started cutting—not from the FY14 budget but from the new proposed budget with all the inflated wants added in. By taking out the laptops they wanted, the BOC said it cut the budget by $10,000. When they got a different health care plan that was cheaper than the old health plan with the increased premium, they said they cut the budget by $200,000. In reality health insurance cost the BOC an additional $2,783.08 over the previous year. To use the health insurance premiums as an excuse to raise the property taxes is just that, an excuse. It is not based on reality.
The landfill problems are causing additional expenses; however, those will be covered with the money transferred out of the curbside account with $130,000 to spare to do away with furlough days (according to the county manager’s figures). This doesn’t mean the $480,000 of costs won’t actually be spent!
The BOC has made it sound as if they cut the budget. You can’t cut what didn’t exist to start with.
During the budget process the BOC did acknowledge the intense pressure of price inflation on consumer goods. And, rightly so. We all know this from first-hand experience facing budgets burdened with the rising cost of food, gas, clothes, housing, transportation, heating and cooling costs and other basic necessities of life. But, then the BOC goes on to conclude that due to the increase in the cost of consumer goods, the only option left to county government is to increase the financial burden felt by Jasper County taxpayers by raising our property tax.
Since the BOC likes to compare our property taxes with 2009 here is a fact. In 2009 the county levied $5,166,292 of property taxes—this included money for the hospital. In 2014 the BOC has voted to levy $5,457,541 of county taxes plus $316,042 of taxes for the hospital for a total of $5,773,583—the highest amount of property taxes levied in Jasper County history. Taxes levied are property taxes and do not include the various other monies collected that are reflected in the budget. These figures do NOT include School taxes or City of Monticello taxes or the garbage fee.
Only by being informed can the citizens understand what is being done and make good decisions. That is our goal with the Taxdogs blog.