As is predictable and inevitable, Pastures supervisor Tracy Pyles sent letters to the editor with his one-sided "facts" making the case against a modest tax increase to fund schools, public safety, and other essential services for the residents of Augusta County. Pyles and North River supervisor Marshall Pattie argue that Augusta County has enough reserves and should foot the bill for new expenses for K-12 education, for additional deputies and emergency services, and for unfunded mandates passed on by the fools in Richmond.
The Pyles/Pattie position is short-sighted and works only in the short... very short... term. All of the costs are recurring and will revisit Augusta County year after year. Paying for recurring expenses out of "reserves" is simply irresponsible fiscal management that passes the buck to future generations.
"Reserves" should be saved, and have been prudently set aside in a line-by-line fashion, for clearly identified projects such as 911 enhancements and other long range needs facing the county. Some of the "reserves," over $6 million according to estimates, are set aside to cover expenses during the rise and fall of revenues inherent in a June/December real estate tax collection cycle. The Pyles/Pattie positon could place those projects, indeed the county's budgetary solvency, in jeopardy.
Beverley Manor supervisor David Karaffa has a better idea - pay as you go. As Karaffa noted at his recent town hall meeting, draining Augusta County's reserves will mean taking out loans to cover needed and planned improvements for infrastructure, maintenance, and equipment. This blog hasn't always been nice to Mr. Karaffa, but on this issue he has clearly risen to the occasion and is right!
Even with the modest real estate tax increase Augusta County will be among the lowest tax burden localities in the Commonwealth. At stake is not only the long term stability and fiscal prudence of the county, but the quality of public education and public safety. Karaffa is demonstrating political courage for the good of Augusta County - we can only hope that trait is contagious.
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