Don’t replace ‘Do more with less’ with have more, spend more
July 27, 2013 10:30 PM | 1894 views | 2 2 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Cobb Board of Commissioners did as promised last week and cut property tax rates. Not by much, but it was a cut, and it was the fulfillment of an earlier promise.

But don’t light those leftover July Fourth fireworks or uncork the champagne just yet. The board trimmed the rate by just 0.2 mills, meaning the owner of a house with a tax value of $200,000 will save a whopping $14. Enough to buy about four gallons of gas, or two or three fancy coffees at Starbucks or Cool Beans just off Marietta Square.

The decrease will be reflected on the 2013 tax bills, which go out Aug. 15.

The Commission had hiked the rate to 11.11 mills from 9.6 mills back in 2011 rather than cut services any deeper or do like many jurisdictions were doing and resort to widespread layoffs and furloughs.

But Lee promised late last year to begin rolling the tax rate back down as the county’s fiscal picture improved. Tuesday’s decision was the first step in that process, with the Commission voting 4-1 in favor of the rollback.

The sole “no” vote came from south Cobb’s Lisa Cupid.

“We’re looking at about $10 for each homeowner,” she said. “For that, what is it worth to see our public right-of-ways mowed? For that, what is it worth to see the hours of some of our facilities lengthened?”

Answered Lee, “Our budget moving forward is sustainable. … I believe we have hit the bottom. Indications are we are turning the corner and are improving.”

That would indeed seem to be the case. Housing starts have been going up, the unemployment rate is edging down, vehicle sales are strong and the real estate market is red hot. The Cobb government should be able to absorb the loss of revenue from the cut (only $4.3 million) without blinking an eye.

Indeed, Lee and the commission are already looking at creating what amounts to a so-called rain tax, which would be a fee tacked onto water bills to raise funds to address stormwater-infrastructure issues. The rain tax would wipe out the minimal savings from Tuesday’s tax cut about two times over.

Cobb historically has maintained one of the very lowest property tax rates in the metro area, and last week’s vote is a welcome step toward maintaining that status. But the commission should think long and hard before tacking on new taxes or fees, and should also consider accelerating the pace of tax rollback toward the 9.6 rate we left behind in 2011.

The Cobb government (like most other governments and businesses — and like most taxpayers) has had to “do more with less” in recent years because of the economy. Now, even though the economy is cranking back up, this is not the time to replace “Do more with less” with a “Have more, spend more” approach.

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Hank Moody
|
July 28, 2013
Rather than waste space in the newspaper with omens of the possibility of future taxes (18 months away, mind you, and the Commissioners are studying it for its pros and cons) why don't you offer up solutions. This newspaper has made a habit of condemning anything that so much hints at a fee or tax increase without ever offering up any proposed solutions of their own. The fact of the matter is the storm water system needs to be addressed. Why don't you spend this week researching and then publish in next week's editorial section a solution other than raising fees to pay for it.

God knows this paper would be the first to run a story titled "Storm water system in ruins, Lee did nothing to fix it."

-Hank

tax payer
|
July 28, 2013
The solution is simple: STOP the transfer of Water System funds to the General Fund. The $20M would easily go towards fixing the storm water issue. The problem for Lee then becomes how to balance a budget that has been on the backs of the water users. Guess he might have to make the hard choices.
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