06/12/05 — Get answers: Citizens entitled to question rising tax burdens

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Get answers: Citizens entitled to question rising tax burdens

There seems to be more talk about taxes these days.

The state is extending a half-cent sales tax increase, which, even though they say it isn’t, is an additional tax. A temporary tax that is set to expire and is re-upped is just that — a new tax.

The city has passed its increase, and county officials are still trying to figure out how much more money property owners will have to pay. Whether the money is needed or not, the reality is this will be another bill to add to the ever-growing list of obligations that families must try to figure out how to juggle.

So, there might be a temptation to think that there is nothing to do but sigh and rebalance your checkbook.

But the truth is that there is still time to be part of the process. The county is still talking about its increase, and you never know what will happen with the state budget negotiations.

The key to participating, however, is getting the information necessary to make an informed decision.

The city, county and state budget numbers are public information, and there are plenty of ways to find answers to the questions taxpayers most want to know — why do we need to spend this money; are there other areas we can cut; and how will this extra funding benefit the community in the future?

The budget hearings are also open to the public, and there are plenty of county officials who would be happy to answer questions at any one of them.

Asking questions and demanding accountability are important jobs for newspapers and taxpayers alike. There is no reason to take at face value any comment made by any public official. If there is a question, or you want some justification for the money you are about to spend, there is no reason not to ask.

You can bet we will continue to ask.

There are a lot of nuances to the budget process that are not easily explained through lists of dollars and cents. There are mandated projects without state funding support. There are required fund balances. There are mandated funding levels. All those factor into what can and cannot be cut.

Asking for explanations is not only smart, it is a good way to make responsible decisions about how you want your money used and who you want spending it.

Published in Editorials on June 12, 2005 12:03 AM