These are the Houston County financial facts. Draw your own conclusion.
Fact: Statewide county tax levies averaged a 1.5 percent increase for 2014. Houston County had a 3.52 percent ($385,000) tax increase for 2014, more than double the state average.
Fact: The tax projection increase for 2015 assumes a 2 percent salary increase for employees (the average annual increase of the last 10 years), and a 2.7 percent health insurance increase. Assuming that the county does not spend a dime over budget, there would need to be a 3.11 percent ($328,000) tax increase to balance the budget next year.
Fact: The tax projection increase for 2016 assumes 27 pay periods for employees (one extra), a 2 percent salary increase (the average annual increase over the previous 10 years), and a 2.7 percent health insurance increase. Once again, if the county does not spend a dime over budget, there would need to be a 3.73 percent ($417,000) tax increase to balance the 2016 budget.
Fact: The above mentioned “facts” equate to a $1.13 million tax increase for Houston County taxpayers over this 3-year period from 2014-16.
Fact: The wheelage tax that was implemented in 2013, although not collected as a property tax, is the equivalent of nearly a 2 percent tax increase a year ($196,000). The wheelage tax is now part of the highway department budget.
Fact: Houston County has raised taxes by more than $4.1 million in the past 10 years, not counting the wheelage tax. That is more than 4 percent a year ($401,250), most of that in what is considered the recession years.
Fact: Houston County has been spending more than $400,000 a year more than it has.
Fact: In the past four weeks, the county highway department has spent well over $400,000 on new equipment. The highway department’s equipment (capital expenditure) budget is $550,000, which is 5.2 percent of the county’s total levy.
Fact: The county’s general fund (savings account) has decreased from about $5.9 million in 2005 to $4.7 million in 2013 and it is not being replenished. The “county savings account” is being used up at a rate of approximately $150,000 a year.
Fact: If the board goes to the taxpayers to fund a new highway shop, it would increase taxes by .5 percent for every $500,000 spent over the next 10 years or 1 percent for every million dollars spent spread over the next 10 years.
Fact: If the county continues the current spending trend, the tax levy will double in the next 10 years. This does not count the possibility of the board going to the taxpayers for a new highway shop.
Fact: I have not waivered from my commitment to properly manage your tax dollars. I just haven’t received support from my fellow commissioners.
Fact: Houston County taxpayers are in financial jeopardy and are at the mercy of the board’s decisions. The county board has two choices: Raise taxes significantly year after year or reduce capital spending, reduce services that are not mandated and share other services with neighboring counties.