Mt. Vernon Register-News

October 19, 2013

Courthouse meeting disappointment

The Register-News

---- — Editor:

With the first townhall meeting addressing the renovation of the courthouse at Dodd’s School now a part of history, I can say that it was at the very best a disappointment to me.

I called it the “first” townhall meeting but it was nothing more than a re-hash of the meetings held in August with nothing new presented by the county and it was only due to questions and comments from the public that any new ground was broken. And that newly broken ground was not fertile.

No positive comments came from the officials present. One county board member said that he had requested information similar to the information that the public had asked for but had not received an answer. What kind of dog and pony show are we being subjected to? What chance does a member of the public have to get answers to vital questions if the powers that be won’t even address those questions when presented by a county board member who is charged with the responsibility of making decisions on behalf of his constituents?

The official line seemed to be that the solution to the problems of the courthouse were either an “all or nothing” proposition. Either raise taxes and enter into a contract for $8 million or let the courthouse become destroyed and fall to the ground. Really? No middle ground, huh? It was obvious to me that the final outcome of the townhall meetings have already been determined and it was just a matter of “selling” that outcome to the public.

We are being subjected to a sleight of hand bunch of flim-flam in my humble opinion. The predominant solution appeared to me to be a quarter per cent sales tax increase to do the Cadillac renovation project that has been presented. No wait, it has been the only solution presented other than letting the courthouse fall to the ground.

How much revenue will a sales tax increase bring in to the county? Answer: $1.2 million per year! How much revenue is needed to pay the bond payment for the new jail that a previous board saddled us with? Answer: Roughly $1 million per year. The jail cost $15 million and the courthouse is scheduled to cost half that. So, how is your math skills? It seems to me that a sales tax increase would bring in over a half million dollars per year in excess of the amount needed to pay for the flim-flam courthouse repairs.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, seems to be the main reason for the urgency for the courthouse renovation. The county wants extra money to run the county because PTELL (tax caps) will not allow them to raise taxes without a referendum. So now we have a manufactured emergency to entice the voters to raise taxes.

Some county board members hate PTELL because it limits their ability to simply pass a real estate assessment to cover whatever spending that they want to do without asking taxpayers for a vote. Some will tell you that PTELL is the biggest problem facing Jefferson County. And they are right if the solution to the problems of Jefferson County is to reach into the back pockets of Jefferson County taxpayers and steal their money the way it used to be. Without PTELL the board would only have to apologize and explain why the theft was necessary instead of managing the county finances with the monies that the law allows. And the law does allow for increases to the county tax assessment every year without voter approval, which is something that taxpayers cannot count on for their own finances.

Gary Wallace

Mt. Vernon