Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tongue in cheek

Over on Facebook, some of the locals (Republicans) have started a "cut my taxes, I want small government" type of group. This is a response to a comment that the chairman of the Board of Supervisors made about increasing the meals and lodging taxes, as well as the new real estate reassessment numbers, which for some folks (including myself) went up in spite of the national decline in housing values.

People cry, "don't raise my taxes" but they never say what they will do without. Statewide, you hear that with the gas tax, for instance. Fix the roads but don't raise taxes to do it. Do these people not realize it would be cheaper to pay the gas tax than to fix their shocks or their busted tires? Not to mention the time spent without a car while it is being fixed. So when I hit a pothole, I thank a Republican.

I have no children. I receive absolutely nothing from the school system, but they did educate me a very long time ago. This county has no trash pickup, they don't clear my sidewalk because I don't have one. I do use the libraries and I expect a sheriff's deputy to come with siren blasting should I have need to dial 911. Otherwise I don't really get much for my tax dollars. But frankly, I consider it a privilege to live here, and I don't mind paying my taxes and I don't mind paying so that others may have services, even if I don't use them. But apparently I am a rarity.

Anyway, locally, this county does not have serious government bloat. But let's just cut these taxes and services. I want to see what we will do without. I have been writing about the county budget for five years; I happen to have a copy of the county's budget (but not the school budget) right on my desk.

So let's talk numbers. The county spends about $90 million a year. The school system gets over half of that, about $53 million.

That $90 million comes from state, federal and local taxes. Local taxes - the ones the supervisors have any control over - make up about $41 million. That includes real estate, personal property, business taxes, machinery and tools - all of that stuff. The monies are all lumped together in the budget, so it is difficult to tell what state monies pay for and what local dollars purchase. But $41 million is less than half the budget.

So let's cut some stuff. I'm going to try to cut $41 million out of the local county budget. That means there would be little to no local tax! Yippee.

By the way, just for fun let's say that this $41 million works out to be about $2,700 annually for each tax-paying person in the county, if you figure 15,000 of us pay taxes (that's less than half of the population paying taxes, and I honestly don't know what the real figure is. I'm just guessing.) That really isn't what we pay because businesses pay big chunks in machinery and tools taxes and business license taxes, etc. But for my purposes, I am going to look at it like that.

Using this fantasy, each million the county spends costs each taxpayer about $66.

Numbers are so much fun to manipulate.

But here we go! I'm making cuts (this is all tongue-in-cheek, for those who can't recognize sarcasm when they read it).

1. Parks and recreation. We don't need all those little ball games for the kids, do we? I sure don't. We don't need those ball fields at the schools mowed (the county parks & rec folks do that) and we don't need that senior van that picks up the old folks and takes them to the doctor. We don't need the fishing thing, or the Easter Egg Hunt, or the bridge club for the older generation. We don't need the grounds mowed at Greenfield. Let's get rid of all of that. That's $1.1 million for parks & recreation staff, $77,000 for the senior van program. Oh yeah, let's close the Sports Complex, too. That's another $350,000 right there. We're up to $1.5 million gone. Here's your $99 a year back!

2. Libraries. I guess these go next, even though I do love my library. But we don't need free books, DVDs, books on tapes, right? We don't need access to the Internet, free WiFi. We don't need a place to take the kids for children's program. We don't need those meeting rooms, either (because we're going to nail these buildings shut and maybe sell them). Nevermind that enough stuff is checked out to represent frequent visits by all 32,000 county residents. Let's close these suckers, all of them. That will save $1.1 million. Here's another $70 a year back to you! Will you buy books and DVDs with it?

3. Emergency Services. I hate to see these guys go, but we used to be all-volunteer so we'll go back to that. I mean, so what if when my mother was dying of cancer we had to wait for an hour and 20 minutes for an ambulance to come from Eagle Rock? So what if she was in so much pain we couldn't touch her and all we could do was watch her writhe in agony while we waited for help? We have to keep those tax dollars down! So let's lose this $850,000 in staffing costs plus the $1.5 million the county gives to the volunteers who still run calls. Whew! That's a big cut, with $2.4 million gone. Here's $150 a year back to you! I personally hope it burns a big hole in your damn pocket. May you never need these services, you A-hole.

4. Animal control. Here's a quick way to lose a half-million from the budget! Besides, we don't need the dog catcher coming to get the strays, do we? We don't need him to come and shoot the wounded deer on the side of the road, or get the skunk out of the basement, or any of those other things that animal control people do. Here's $33 back to you!

Gosh, all of these services gone and we're only up to $5.5 million dollars. I've only saved each taxpayer $360! Who knew that those dollars could do so much? Well, let's keep cutting!

5. I want to cut out the school buses. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of the school budget, just the county one, and yes, they are different. So I am going to make this number up. Let's say it costs $2 million to bus the kids. It might only cost $1 million or it may cost $3 million I don't know, but I consider busing a waste, just like you maybe consider libraries a waste. I don't care if you have to quit your job to get your kid to and from school. That isn't my problem. You can go work the night shift. I want my $120 a year back, not spent on hauling your kid so she can get an education.

6. Teachers. Again, I don't have numbers for this, but I think 20-25 students per classroom is too few. Let's double those class sizes. Surely it doesn't matter if your kid needs a little individual attention, right? Let's give her a Popsicle and stick her in the back of the room. This has to save at least $2 million, too, wouldn't you think, if we get rid of half of the teachers? I like these big numbers and getting my money back! Whoo! That's another $120 a year in my pocket!

7. School athletics. I don't care about this one at all. We don't need the football teams, wrestling, baseball, any of that crap. Again, I don't have these numbers but I'm going to say $2 million (because it's an easy figure) and do away with this stuff, too. Because that's another $120 a year in my pocket! Whoo! I can go buy myself a football with that if I want.

8. Okay, back to the county's real budget. Oh, here's refuse disposal. That's $600,000. That's more than $33 annually out of my pocket to get rid of trash. Let's go back to dumping stuff in sinkholes and contaminating the water supply. And I like having the trash along the side of the road, too, don't you? Isn't it colorful?

9. Here's a line item that confuses every one. It's "comprehensive services" which I think is actually foster care. This is $1.4 million dollars. Let's do away with foster care because, well, I don't have kids so I certainly don't need it. What do I care if some child is abused and neglected and left to die in the street? Surely someone will take her in, right? And if not, well ... that's what the pauper's cemetery is for.

10. Let's see. Planning and zoning uses up $377,000 of the county's budget. Let's do away with that. Now, when the house next door to you goes into foreclosure and a pig farmer buys it to make a hog mansion, don't squeal! Because you've saved about $10 annually by not having a planning and zoning department.

11. Community organizations. The county supports a number of nonprofits, like TAP and the Free Clinics and things like that. They give $282,700 in that, which is less than $10 a year out of your pocket. Let's do away with that, too.

Let's see. How much have I cut so far? Gosh, just $14.2 million. I've only saved Joe Taxpayer about $950 annually. I'd better cut some more stuff!

12. How about we cut the voter registrar? Let's not even have that at all. Because we don't care if we vote, and you know it's all rigged anyway. That's $209,000 saved.

13. The sheriff has a big budget of $4.1 million. Let's cut that in half and get rid of $2 million from the sheriff's budget. That means we have half the deputies and detectives on the road. Your stuff get stolen from your back yard? Tough. Hope you have insurance.

14. There is also a $3.5 million budget for the jail. Let's get rid of $3 million of that. When the murders and rapists escape and come after your wife and daughter, I guess that's just your bad luck.

Gosh. There are 14 cuts and I've only chopped out $19.4 million. What else should go, do you think? How about the courts? Commonwealth's attorney? After all, with fewer deputies, we won't be prosecuting as many criminals. Maybe we could get rid of the probation officers? Really, don't you think more of these cuts need to come from schools? Maybe we could close a few schools. Do you volunteer your school for a closure?

Anyway, see, I've halved your local tax dollars by half. Look at all the things you no longer have to pay for.

Is it really worth it? I don't think so. I like having libraries, and I like having the parks mowed. I think kids learn better with smaller classes and I want the youth of today to grow up to be productive and vibrant citizens tomorrow. Even if they aren't mine.

I want foster care, social services, mental health care. As a citizen, it is part of my responsibility to ensure that folks who can't care for themselves are taken care of. Handing out $66 a year to ensure that an abused child is cared for is absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things.

I wish people would stop and think. Because it is obvious to me that they really don't know what they're saying. They don't really know what they're asking for. They don't realize, or maybe they just don't care, that their $66 out of pocket goes a very long way when combined with everyone else's.

All they want to do is cry, "lower my taxes."

5 comments:

  1. One of the main reasons there is so much talk of state and local tax increases is the low federal tax rates we've had since the "Bush tax cuts" people seem so reluctant to repeal.

    Federal assistance to states and localities is down. Federal programs have been pushed down to states. State programs have been cut. Up in NY where I grew up, even services formerly provide by county governments are being pushed down to town governments. Guess what? Town taxes are going up.

    I understand it may be more palatable to pay local taxes than Federal taxes, but in the end, if we want services, we need to be willing to pay some taxes. Over the last couple decades we've paid some of the lowest federal tax rates since WWII. Now we are paying the price for that locally.

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  2. Thanks for the great breakdown. What a great picture.

    I hate paying taxes like anyone else, but certainly think that all things considered, we get a pretty good return in our community.

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  3. Great post, Anita. Yep, I think so often those that whine the most about taxes going up are the first to complain about the level of government services going down.

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  4. Wonderful post! I've often wondered where people think the money comes from for all the services they demand from government.

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  5. Well as of this Administration being in offfice "Sweet Va Breeze", I think all we have to do is ask and the check is written.

    Scary!!!!

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