It took until the first day of the 12th month for the Board of Commissioners to finally decide on a tax rate for 2009. To put in perspective how long the process took, consider that the 2.28 mill increase the commissioners voted on this past Tuesday won't be billed to homeowners until March of 2010.
So none of that money will help the 2009 budget. In fact, it won't even be collected in the same year it was implemented. Though some citizens became resigned to the fact that an increase was needed, there was no reason for it taking the better part of a year to reach that conclusion.
Commissioners have repeatedly said they saw it coming, the intersection of expenses and revenue that would necessitate a tax increase. So why then did it take so long to enact the increase?
The answer is easy: political pressure. Commissioners backed off their original proposal when the public reacted loudly and negatively. But now, six months later, they've reversed themselves again and went ahead with the increase. If it was imperative that an increase be enacted, perhaps they should have stuck to their guns originally, taken the heat and done what they thought was best.
Instead, the budget trouble became a saga, dragging on and on until the year is nearly over. But at least a decision was finally reached, unlike the service delivery issue between the county and city governments that continues to be unresolved.
Commissioner Mike Beaudreau deserves credit for sticking to his guns. Beaudreau was the only commissioner to vote against the 21 percent increase, saying "I fear this millage rate increase will be a burden on people with fixed incomes. Our citizens are suffering out there."
The other commissioners will point out that it's the first tax increase for county government in more than a decade and that it was very necessary. The question remains, however, why it took so long to finally make it official.
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