I might not always know exactly what I’m for …
But please allow me to preempt the upcoming election season by stating emphatically and pointedly what I’m against — any bill, proposal or candidate that advocates raising our taxes.
I’m sorry, but I’m at the point where there no longer exists an argument that can possibly sway my thinking as to how society as a whole —be it local, national or worldwide — can benefit by giving the folks in charge more money. I’m convinced that every politician, bureaucrat and civic entity suffers from the same, peculiar malady, and that is the mental disorder it always needs more money. While there might be times when local entities do, indeed need, more, I can tell you the problem lies more in how and where it gets its money as opposed to from whom it’s trying to obtain the cash.
Here’s a case in point. Mesa County School District 51 has a proposal on the ballot for a property tax increase that would help it obtain an additional $12.5 million of funding per year for the next five years. I know that several newspapers and local organizations have come out in favor of the proposal — and they all have good reasons, as does the school district, I’m sure.
But let’s be honest. What can most of us speak to as it relates to the district’s proposal? Do we really have any idea about what is exactly occurring in the district’s current budget of $140 million or so? We certainly have no idea what is in that budget line by line. We have no idea as to whether or not the district employs teachers and others that you or I would never hire. And we certainly have no idea as to what would occur in the district based on what gets wasted, cut or not cut in its spending. Isn’t that really how it is? But even if we knew all of that, it doesn’t answer as to why the funding is needed. But what we do know are the posters, opinion columns and marketing about the feel-good stories of how more money is needed.
I know Steve Schultz, superintendent of District 51. I like Steve Schultz. And I’m sure Steve Schultz is doing the best job he can with how the budget is handed to him each year. I also know that before Steve became superintendent, the district was at the property tax trough more than a few times with the same concerns in a “good economy.” So is it really our property tax rates, or the lack of funding, or is it more of how the system works that creates the “I always need more” attitude?
I firmly believe that it is, and here’s why. This has nothing to do with the property taxes and other taxes that we pay. It has to do who we pay them to and where they go before they are so graciously bestowed back to us by the all-knowing and benevolent politicians and bureaucrats at the state and federal levels. The system is simply weighted against an efficient use of the taxpayer dollars from Mesa County.
Who reading this believes that for every dollar we send to Washington, we get that dollar back in goods and services? Did you know that it’s specifically written into the Constitution that the federal government simply does not have to do that in any way, shape or form? Now I believe the founding fathers meant for that codicil to imply that folks paying taxes in Iowa would not reap the benefit of the U.S. Coast Guard, but that just isn’t how it is today. Now apply that way of doing business with how education dollars are taken from Western Colorado and spread into vote-buying education programs in voting-block municipalities at both the state and federal levels.
Who here believes that our government runs so efficiently that at least 40 percent of every dollar we send to the government is wasted in bureaucracy and reckless spending? My bet it is worse. And how does the government make up for the percentage of dollars it wastes that we send it? That’s right, it borrows like a crack addict from the local loan shark —only it’s not responsible for paying itself back. We are making our tax dollars even more worthless.
I simply can’t see a reason to subsidize the waste, fraud and abuse through another tax increase that will only be needed again in the near future as the waste, fraud and abuse get worse, especially when the solution is so easily within reach and so simple to see. Don’t you think it’s time that we came up with a way to stop paying for goods and services on a 40 or 50 cent return on every dollar invested? You certainly would not continue to patronize a private business giving you that kind of value.
I’d be willing to bet anyone reading this that if we kept all of our tax dollars here in Mesa County and had local professionals, like Steve, disperse them where they are needed most based on local knowledge — and not on the needs of votes for the next general election or a payoff to some favored group — we’d have more than plenty to go around.
Then Steve, along with all of our other local civic entities, would be happy to leave us all alone. I’m sure he’d thank us as well — probably in the form of a rebate.
Craig Hall is owner and publisher of the Business Times. Reach him at 424-5133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.