Tax in­crease proves need for bet­ter county gov­ern­ment

The Covington News - - OPINION -

Dear editor,

Many taxpayers in New­ton County rec­og­nize that our county re­mains in a de­pressed eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion that is re­flected by a re­duced tax di­gest and less county tax rev­enue com­pared to a few years ago. The re­sult is that our county gov­ern­ment must be man­aged with much greater ef­fi­ciency and with very care­ful, ac­count­able and trans­par­ent spend­ing de­ci­sions. Over the last sev­eral years that has not been the case with our Board of Com­mis­sion­ers (BOC). Ques­tion­able spend­ing de­ci­sions have been made de­spite tax­payer con­cerns about in­ad­e­quate fidu­ciary over­sight and lack of trans­parency. Taxpayers sim­ply do not trust the BOC to wisely use ad­di­tional tax money.

Be­cause of the wide­spread dis­trust of the BOC, their plan to raise prop­erty taxes, solid waste fees and wa­ter rates must come with their pledge to cit­i­zens that the Board will take im­me­di­ate, spe­cific and mea­sur­able steps to im­prove the ef­fi­ciency and ef­fec­tive­ness of county gov­ern­ment. More taxes must not equal more waste­ful spend­ing. Such steps should in­clude:

1. De­velop a multi-year fi­nan­cial and op­er­a­tional plan that will an­tic­i­pate ser­vice de­mands, set strate­gic goals and pro- vide for fu­ture ex­penses; and that will re­store the county fund bal­ance to a re­spon­si­ble level.

2. Re­struc­ture county gov­ern­ment, based on the rec­om­men­da­tions of the cit­i­zens com­mit­tee, to clar­ify the su­per­vi­sory and man­age­ment roles of the chair­man, county man­ager and dis­trict com­mis­sion­ers.

3. Pro­vide suf­fi­cient tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise to en­able the citizen’s land­fill com­mit­tee to de­velop a fu­ture solid waste plan that in­cludes con­sid­er­a­tion of al­ter­nate waste dis­posal meth­ods and po­ten­tial part­ner­ships. Charge the land­fill com­mit­tee to eval­u­ate for­ma­tion of a Solid Waste Au­thor­ity to man­age fu­ture solid waste col­lec­tion and dis­posal.

4. Bring all rou­tine le­gal ser­vices in house and es­tab­lish firm con­trol over fu­ture le­gal costs to bring ex­penses in line with those of com­pa­ra­ble coun­ties.

5. Im­me­di­ately adopt the rec­om­men­da­tions of the pur­chas­ing com­mit­tee, and can­cel or re-bid all con­tracts re­lated to oper­a­tions of the con­ve­nience cen­ters (county dump­ster sites) and any other county con­tracts that were let or ex­tended with­out bid­ding. Taxpayers need to be re­as­sured that we are get­ting the best value for all county ser­vices.

6. Stop all spend­ing on the Bear Creek Pro­ject un­til a com­plete, ob­jec­tive third party re­view de­ter­mines it is needed. Can­cel the $2 mil­lion dol­lar no-bid con­tract with Schn­abel En­gi­neer­ing for dam de­sign, thereby sav­ing en­ter­prise wa­ter funds. Au­dit all Bear Creek ex­penses to date and pro­vide a trans­par­ent ac­count­ing of land bought and ser­vices pur­chased.

7. De­ter­mine the in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments needed for the county wa­ter sys­tem with the help of the New­ton County Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Au­thor­ity and the city wa­ter de­part­ments. Bud­get for the im­prove­ments and get them un­der­way.

8. Af­ter tak­ing the above ac­tions, reeval­u­ate the fi­nan­cial need for the in­crease in the solid waste tip­ping fee, the con­ve­nience cen­ter charge and the wa­ter rate in­crease. Con­duct mar­ket anal­y­sis be­fore any fee in­creases.

If the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers and Chair­man make a for­mal pledge to taxpayers to make these im­prove­ments, the pro­posed mill­age rate and fee in­creases will be a lit­tle less painful for those of us who will have to pay them. Re­spect­fully Sub­mit­ted, Larry McSwain

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