The Supervisors are talking about how much they’ll have to raise tax rates to spare themselves the discomfort of making the sort of painful choices the rest of us can’t avoid, or force someone else to pay for. A hike from the current 71 cents per $100 of assessed value to 85 cents or higher would be required to keep local government funding steady.
Meanwhile we are saying no to things our kids want, no to things we want, and now even to things we need. Maybe we can put off needing them for a while, we’re telling ourselves. We’re saying no to our neighbors’ businesses, places we normally patronize, knowing that we are hurting them. We are saying no to charities we are normally generous to.
Maybe the relentless economic doomsaying in the media has come true, or maybe we are finally believing it, or maybe it’s just the hangover of Christmas bills, but the fearful psychology of recession has indeed taken hold around Crozet. People are talking about their worries in a way you weren’t hearing even a month ago.
It’s time the Supervisors say no, too, and often. Local government has to spend dramatically less and stop doing some things that it simply wants, but doesn’t necessarily need to do. That’s where the people already are.
There’s room to cut. According to data collected by the Albemarle Truth in Taxation Alliance, the County’s spending between 2000/2001 and 2007/2008 increased 90 percent while the population grew only 11 percent. Likewise, spending in the school system has increased 70 percent, while enrollment rose 3 percent. Since 2000, the total number of County employees has risen from 486 to 641-a 32 percent increase. Even if fire and police personnel are taken out of the count, the increase is still 22 percent, from 342 to 418. In 2000 there were 171 residents for every County employee.
In 2007 that ratio was 142:1. If staffing growth continues at the current rate, there will be one County employee per resident by 2041. For the last few years our tax bills have hiked up handsomely. You’re worth more, the Supes told us, so you have to pay more. The jig was up on the real estate boom well before assessments were made last year, but still we paid more. Now we’re being told, you’re worth less now, so you’ll have to pay more. As the adage says, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The government belongs to the people. It serves them. The people don’t belong to the government. They don’t serve it. Now, more than in any recent time, the government must let the people decide how their money should be spent. Let them spend it themselves. They need it.