Thursday, July 13, 2006

Council was correct in rejecting property tax hike

Randy G. Paul criticizes the Monroe County Council for voting down an excess property tax levy for the Monroe County Public Library. The tax increase was defeated 5-2, with Republicans Sue West, Trent Jones and Marty Hawk joining Democrats Warren Henegar and Michael Woods to defeat the proposal.

Paul, showing he has not been paying attention to the discussion, said that "the worse the budget forecast, the better this proposal looks." While the property tax hike would benefit the library, it would harm county government by changing the distribution of county option income tax (COIT) monies. County government would get less money from the COIT if the property tax increase had been passed.

Paul further says that the tax hike for the library "is not an expense to the taxpayers", that it is income and growth. Where exactly does Paul think the money for an excess property tax levy will come from? If you said "the taxpayers of Monroe County", you are right. While supporters of the tax increase argue this is a "small" increase, when you add a series of "small" tax increases ion top of each other you start to have a significant impact on taxpayers and the economy.

I cannot help but notice the hypocrisy of Sophia Travis in this matter. After telling county department heads to cut their budgets by 5% due to budget shortfalls, she supported a measure to actually reduce tax revenue to county government. Many department heads have said they cannot implement a 5% budget cut without laying people off or eliminating positions. While the library is certainly an asset to the community, one of the County Council's primary goals should be to see that county employees are taken care of.

This vote also shows how far out of the mainstream Stoops and Travis are. Conservative Republican Marty Hawk could be expected to oppose the tax increase, as well as moderates Sue West and Trent Jones. What is interesting here is that liberal Democrat Warren Henegar proclaimed that Monroe County residents are "under taxed" during the 2004 campaign. County Assessor Judy Sharp, another liberal Democrat, also opposed the library's tax increase.

Unfortunately, we have no hope of "righting the ship" in this fall's election. Even if all three Republicans win their district races this fall, it takes four seats to maintain a majority. Democrat Jill Lesh has already won her race for County Council district IV, because no Republican is running for that seat and the filing deadline has passed. There is an opportunity to improve the makeup of the council, however, by defeating Mark Stoops and electing fiscally conservative Republican Jim Billingsley.