Shushhhh - Watch what you say!
Federal, state and local governments are beginning to feel the pain the rest of us have endured for over three years. Now that federal reconstruction money earmarked for job creation but used to prop up sagging tax collections is running out, all American government is searching for ways to keep big government spending in high gear. Of course, money is tight for the ordinary taxpayer and housing prices have dropped causing property tax revenue to fall so governments are at wits end trying to find ways to protect employees from the layoffs private business have been forced to make.
No one wants to lose their job or to cause another to be unemployed when they are a good and conscientious worker, but times have been hard for most employers and it become inevitable. Employment is not reliable if the company is inefficient and bloated with excess employees and spending. Private industry was forced by economic conditions to trim expenditures to remain efficient. Government though, is having a tough time grasping the fact that they can not continue to operate the way they have unless they can find ways to increase revenue.
In a failing economic climate companies cannot usually access a new revenue stream so to them the answer is obvious, but governments are not restricted to increasing efficiency in order to remain viable, they can force their customers to pay more for their product with higher taxes.
Bradley county government spending has been growing at the alarming rate of approximately 18% a year for at least 10 years. Yes, the 18% was achieved through the growth Bradley county was fortunate to enjoy and not through property tax increases but The People News editorials warned years ago that the type of rapid government growth experienced was not sustainable over the long haul and that elected leaders were setting the county up for a local meltdown. Guess what? Local government continued to grow, leaders did not plan to save and the spending continued until now they are faced with a reality that was obviously around the corner. There are some new leaders but they haven't learned from the past. Bradley County spent the growth windfall and run up borrowing to the max for capital projects. Now all the money is gone and they can't balance the budget.
There are some fine and conscientious workers in Bradley and Cleveland government and through no fault of their own, some will eventually be part of a forced layoff, just as many private sector employees have endured. Unfortunately, Bradley leaders seem to be unwilling to accept the inevitable and in doing so are endangering the wellbeing of those required to give more to keep government employment safe.
Now Bradley county officials have decided to put a new Wheel Tax on the ballot for voters to approve. The tax will be used to fund building projects for the school system but what it does is free up money that should have been used for these projects to fund other areas of government that needed to be trimmed.
Introducing a Wheel Tax for the county will at best temporarily delay the inevitable and being a completely new tax, burdens taxpayers permanently. Every increase in taxes decreases Bradley county's competitiveness and prospects for growth yet does not solve the problem it was increased for. Also, tax increases always affect more those least able to absorb the burden, and benefit those that enjoy good pay, benefits, and working conditions, such as government employees.
Our economy cannot permanently improve when a smaller and smaller private workforce is required to support an ever larger and greedy government with higher taxes.
Common sense determines that the system must eventually collapse, as we are seeing around the world.
Bradley county leaders need to be better leaders. They can't seriously expect voters to approve a Wheel Tax, but maybe this is a wheel tax or property tax deal that damns you if you do and damns you if you don't.
The hard truth
I believe the tax system in Bradley county is out of whack and what I am about to say may not please everyone, but it needs saying.
I believe that many entities in our county are not paying their fair share of taxes.
Did you know Lee University owns a good portion of Cleveland's rental properties and because of their tax exempt status pay little or no taxes. They enjoy the savings but still get services such as fire and police protection and it is no coincidence that the taxpayer funded Cleveland Public Library is close to the campus. Lee is a big and profitable business in Bradley county, pays their people high salaries and influence every aspect of daily life in Cleveland, but they pay little into government coffers. Cleveland City Councilman Bill Estes, who is also a professor at Lee University, had the gall to suggest to the Bradley County Commission that the Property Tax be increased to raise revenue when the organization that pays his salary is tax exempt. I doubt the hypocritical Estes will be on his soap box demanding the taxing of Lee University.
Lee University is by no means alone in getting a free ride.
Bradley county is home to what seems like countless religious organizations that are also big and selfish businesses. In Cleveland, there are retirement homes. lavish corporation offices, even television studios. There are publishing offices, stores and service organizations all under the religious tax exempt umbrella. I am excluding houses of worship, but even some of them beg the question of "why so big and lavish"? All being serviced by Bradley and Cleveland government free of charge, yet are they abusing their tax exempt status?
Is this fair and equitable to the ordinary taxpayer?
Maybe the Bradley County Commission should hold a Referendum to remove these tax breaks? Create a windfall beyond their wildest dreams.
Some tax exempt organizations such as the Cleveland YMCA are not only obviously revenue generating entities receiving free services, they actually force regular tax paying health clubs out of business, reducing needed tax collections further. Originally, the YMCA supplied a safe haven for young Christian men in need, but now cater to some of the most affluent people in Cleveland with fancy sports equipment and services that could be supplied by ordinary health clubs. Hello!
There are many more organizations that are marginally genuine enjoying tax exempt status. In fact avoiding paying tax has become big business itself in Cleveland. It would not surprise this editor to find that local tax collections could be doubled if everyone paid their fair share.
Another way to avoid paying taxes is for an elite Cleveland company to apply for tax abatement. Wacker Polysilicon has been forgiven another $1,000,000 to help with infrastructure for their new plant, but it seems unfair for them to strong-arm the county commission when they know money is tight. It is reported that they intend to invest almost $2 Billion in Bradley county yet they are haggling over a relatively small amount. I smell a rat! I would be interested to know how much they are donating to the Cleveland / Bradley Chamber of Commerce, the organization who recommended the tax abatement and who are also tax exempt.
I am beginning to think I should become a tax exempt company.
Before Bradley county leaders force even more hardship on the poor of Bradley county they may ease their conscience by first examining closely those organizations that have been freeloading for years.
Tax exempt? Who are they helping? Not the taxpayer, that's for sure.
What do you think?
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