June 25, 2015
During last week’s public hearing (June 18, 2015) on the FY16 budget, Comm. Pennamon stated that obviously no one in the county is concerned about the increased taxes, increased spending, and the direction the county is going because no one took the time (other than 2 citizens) to show up and voice opposition.
At the 9am meeting only two commissioners showed up. Where were the other three? Does this show their lack of concern for what the public thinks? Or did they know they weren’t going to make changes anyway? Or maybe they were at work, just like the majority of the citizens of this county were—working so they could pay their ever increasing taxes.
At the 6pm meeting all the commissioners attended and they were more concerned with defending the second big budget (and tax) increase in as many years rather than working to cut it. Some of their comments ring hollow.
Comm. Trammell said this group of commissioners “has the courage of its convictions” by increasing the budget and our taxes. The only problem with that statement is, convictions must be based on truth.
Comm. Trammell also stated that “this is the first budget that these commissioners have had a chance to make a difference.” How is that since these men have been in office 2 ½ years now? The first budget they set was for the FY14 year (7/1/13 to 6/30/14) and we are all still waiting on the audit to be completed (now a year late) to see how it turned out. In fact at a presentation a few months ago, Karen Degges told the BOC that the FY14 year should have over a $600,000 surplus. In addition we were taxed last year (FY15) for $350,000 to clean up the landfill and this money was not spent. Where is it? That’s almost $1,000,000 the county should have extra.
Every time the financials are presented to this BOC by either Karen Degges or Mike Benton, every department is under budget, everything is right on track, revenues are coming in over budget, and there should be a surplus. So why is there a need to increase the budget? Why isn’t this surplus available and why do the departments need more when they are under budget all the time?
Comm. Henry upon his vote of approving the budget for advertisement stated that “Hopefully, we will see that this money is well spent in the coming year.” There should be no “hopefully” about it! The commissioners are trustees of our money and have fiduciary responsibility to us to see that it IS spent wisely.
In looking at the 5 year tax history as posted in the paper, we haven’t seen anything to indicate the $823,000+ increase we were taxed for in FY15 was spent wisely, so why should we think the $396,000+ tax increase this year will be spent wisely? There is no accountability for the money we are forced to hand over to the BOC.
County Manager, Karen Degges, told everyone that this is “the year of the roads” and added that roads were the number one complaint the county receives. However, during the solid waste committee meeting when she was asked why $40,000 was being taken out of the curbside account for administration, she told the committee that “almost all the calls the county receives are about curbside.” So which is it? What is the truth?
Comm. Luke has sent out emails stating that Jasper County’s average per parcel tax is less than other counties. Seriously, sir, what does that have to do with anything? If my $100,000 house is on one 5 acre parcel and my neighbor’s $500,000 house is on his 5 acre parcel, how does an average per parcel tax comparison mean anything? What matters is how much I am being taxed. The tax on my $100,000 house in Jasper County –for county taxes only—would be $698. This same house valued at $100,000 in Putnam County would be $296; in Butts County would be $571. That, Comm. Luke, is what matters, along with the differences in services received for those tax dollars.
Citizens have learned over the years that it appears to make little difference if they show up and speak or not because the budget is already a “done deal.” Citizens should not have to organize a county wide meeting on every issue; instead the commissioners should be listening to the citizens and working for the citizens.
Comm. Trammell told one of his constituents that “the vast majority of citizens represent the silent majority,” thereby indicating that if you don’t speak up you must agree with him. He ended his comments with, “I’ll continue to do what I think is the right thing to do for this county as I can best determine, and I’ll continue to sleep well.” And he underlined it to make sure she understood, it was about what he thought, not what she thought. This pretty much sums it up about what this BOC thinks about the citizens and their comments.
We must continue to stand together and speak up to have this county go in the direction the citizens want it to go. What affects one of us, indirectly affects all of us.
This was a letter to the editor submitted to The Monticello News by Mary Patrick.