Wednesday, August 4, 2021

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Graham, NC 27253
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County manager’s budget: something for just about everyone – except the beleaguered taxpayer

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This week’s presentation of the county’s manager’s proposed 2021-2022 county budget was as vivid an illustration as we’ve seen lately of the difference between bureaucrats and the taxpayers who are expected to pay the bills.

County manager Bryan Hagood found “room” in the budget to stack in 10 new employees.

He also recommends “unfreezing” 28 positions that had gone unfilled due to the uncertainty surrounding the 2020-2021 budget.

Hagood found room for pay raises across the board, some even more generous than others.

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Everyone gets at least 2 percent in their already generous salaries. Regular county employees could get as much as another 2 percent more by virtue of what is euphemistically called “merit pay.”

And the sheriff’s office ran off with the pay-raise prize, getting 5 percent pay raises for everyone from jailers to front-line deputies. The school system got all it asked for, a whopping 10 percent increase in its budget.

In fact, the county manager proposes to boost spending overall by roughly $17 million, an enormous 10.2 percent in one fell swoop!

The manager moaned that all this new spending was necessary because of the lean budget from last year when there was so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

So amid all the extra spending, what accommodations did the county manager build in for the taxpayers of Alamance County, whose hard-earned money is supposed to fund all of this largesse?

Absolutely nothing.

Taxpayers are simply expected to silently, stoically foot the entire bill for all the new spending.
Where, for instance, is the manager’s recommendation for any consideration of trimming the property tax rate, which two years ago was increased by the highest percentage in county history – 8 cents per $100 valuation, or almost 14 percent.

You won’t find it in his PowerPoint summary of the proposed budget nor in the massive book that contains all the fine print.

There’s no indication that it was ever even considered.

Yet, sales tax revenues have surprised almost everyone by being considerably higher than anticipated.

So, why not cut the property tax rate by at least a penny or two – since this other revenue source is coming in above expectations?

The current tax rate of 67 cents per $100 valuation is the highest in county history.

Meanwhile, the county stands to get a windfall of tens of millions of dollars in federal “relief” through various Covid-related appropriations – at least $34 million on top of millions already received.

Given the current context, the property tax rate should be able to be reduced by at least a penny or two.

Surely, the county commissioners could have the manager do some nipping and tucking on this enormous spending plan to find some room to ease the burden on those whose tax dollars make all of it possible: the lowly taxpayers.

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