Last week, the Paintsville City Council had a very difficult meeting that included heated exchanges regarding a tax increase. The council voted to not raise the tax rate, to the dismay of the mayor and two members.
The good thing about this meeting is that opinions were heard and democracy was practiced.
There was a proposal to increase the property tax rate from .189 percent to .215 percent. Mayor Runyon gave an example where a property owner who owns a piece of property worth $100,000 will only see a $19 per year increase. That is broken down to the lowest denominator and, on the surface, it’s a small amount.
One may argue that $19 or $36 a year could mean nothing to the property owner but cumulatively could do a lot for the city. According to Mayor Runyon, the budget calls for extra spending in raises and other areas and the city cannot afford that without increase taxes. Runyon called the council’s decision to not raise taxes a big mistake.
However, when you look deeper into the reality of the issue there are always two sides. A budget was passed with the expectation of projected revenue based on historical data plus the addition of the new taxes. Then COVID hit.
The city is losing a lot of money this year in revenue due to COVID, causing their approved budget to be obliterated. Festivals have been called off, tourism is lacking, restaurants and stores are closed or limited in operation and tax money has halted. This causes the city like every city in the country to tighten their belts and make changes.
Sometimes changes are not popular or easy for people to handle. People may have to get laid off and services may have to get cut in order for the city to run as efficiently as possible without being irresponsible. It’s a situation that no politician wants to make but they were voted into office to make the hard decisions.
On the other side, people have been laid off and are not able to work. The unemployment benefits are running out and there is no income. Jobs are getting more scarce and because it’s an election year, the politicians in D.C. will not agree on another stimulus package, causing more strife on the American people.
The power company has instituted increases, health care costs are rising and now that people have to homeschool, their fixed costs have increased. I don’t know too many employers who have been fortunate enough to give raises to their employees. So if the city employees don’t get a raise this term and some layoffs are mandated then the city is in the same boat as the rest of the country.
The city council needs to collectively make the necessary cuts to expenses in an amended budget where the people will not suffer any longer than they have to. When this pandemic is over and people get back to work, a revised budget can be passed and new tax rates can be revisited. Until that time there should be a freeze on spending, raises and hiring and no increase in taxes. As uncomfortable as that sounds, it’s the right thing for the taxpayers.
It ain’t easy being mayor. And Mayor Runyon has done a lot of good things over the years. But like every state, county and city in this country, Paintsville, too, must evaluate their budget and make the tough decisions.
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