Macon should use fund balance, cut tax rate

To the Editor:

In 2010, the Macon County Board of Commissioners, under the leadership of then Chairman Ronnie Beale, voted to raise property taxes by 1.5 cents per $100 of valuation, or approximately $1.4 million.

In the depths of terrible economic conditions, with many folks losing their jobs, many homes in foreclosure, many filing for bankruptcy, the county commission raised your property taxes.

Each year since, the county has collected approximately an additional $1.4 million as a result of that tax increase.  The increase wasn’t needed; it hasn’t been spent. It sits in the county’s treasury instead of your bank account or paying your bills.

County management says a huge fund balance is a sign of good financial management. To the contrary, it reflects poor financial management. Good financial management would result in a fund balance near the target of 25 percent a previous commission established, not in the mid-40 percent range and rising annually.

In next year’s budget, soon to be decided, the tax rate should be dropped by 4.5 cents per $100 of value, returning the excess money collected by the ill-conceived increase of 2010. Such a decrease would not affect county services one iota and would result in a fund balance of approximately 38 percent.

In an interview on May 8, Commissioner Beale was quoted as saying, “If we could find a way to do it (tax reduction), great, but without penalizing our school systems and other things we have going for us, but if you cut taxes, something has to be cut out.”

This could not be further from the truth. The county could budget an increase in expenditures by $10 million for next year and have enough fund balance left to meet the 25 percent targeted reserve.

The current property tax rate is 27.9 cents. Next year’s should be 23.4 cents.

Don Swanson


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