Get ready. Any time politicians say they're worried about raising taxes, your taxes are going up.
In a Chronicle story Monday, Columbia County commissioners said things like this: "I'm hoping that we're going to have enough growth in our (tax) digest to offset the expenses that are coming our way'' (Diane Ford); and, if consolidation doesn't pass, a millage-rate hike might be necessary (Steve Brown); and, finding the money for projects the county needs, without consolidation, would be "gut-wrenching" (Tommy Mercer).
What's really "gut-wrenching"? Taxpayers seeing their taxes climb each year as the county's property values rise. Sure, such an increase in value means a Columbia County home is a good, solid investment; the higher tax bill that results is an acceptable price to pay for that investment. But the only way to cash in is to sell out, and many people have no intention of selling their home any time soon.
For these folks, especially, it is unthinkable for commissioners to suggest that the rising demands of operating the county are such that we can't survive without squeezing even more money out of the taxpayers.
Those taxpayers rightly ask: What happened to the money from the stormwater utility fee? What about the new fire tax? And why hasn't the county imposed impact fees on developers?
Taxpayers have had enough. Columbia County's growth is good, but it shouldn't come at the expense of the county's current residents; growth should pay its own way.
Before the words "tax increase" ever move from the lips of a single public official, the commissioners must be ready to explain why they haven't done more to prevent the benefits of growth from becoming a burden on everyone who's already here.
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