First of all, let me say that this year's budget was presented well and fairly represented the direction and wishes of a majority on council. A great deal of hard work went into this balanced budget (as usual) and there were no tax increases requested. So why vote against it?
I believe, whenever possible, a consistent stand on principle is key to ensuring dependable representation. If you vote for something because it's easy, looks or feels good then you never really build a foundation that The People can trust or count on. A good solid principled stand, therefore, is something I will always default to, unless I hear from You, The People to the contrary...
My vote against this seemingly good representative budget was one of principle. In short, here are the three principles that precipitated my "NO" vote:
A large sum ($800k) was being taken from the revenue of the 2% Hospitality Tax to fund operation and maintenance of the Tyger River Park. Although a portion of the HTax can be used for this purpose, that tax may not always be in place (it is set to expire in around 17 years). In principle, we should not use 'temporary' funding sources to fund ongoing expenses, like maintenance and operation. This can lead to an undesired tax increase in the future.
- We have uncovered several departments that are extremely out of step with new technology and resources. These are departments like the Clerk of Courts office, Record of Deeds and the Probate Court. These are services that, constitutionally, we must provide to the public. Because of our lack of technology, what should take 24-48 hours to do is taking months. Despite not having the funds to provide the necessary upgrades and resources, we have continued our contribution to our 'outside agencies'. The agencies on the list are all very good and worthy causes. They range from the Arts Partnership* to the Children's Advocacy Center. If I had to choose, I don't think I could name one agency that doesn't provide a terrific and much needed service to the citizens of Spartanburg County. In principle, however, if we don't have the money to take care of our constitutionally mandated services, then we don't have the money to give to outside agencies. We have been told that if we receive more money from the state this year, we will properly fund our departments. Yet, in the meantime, council voted to give our outside agencies MORE money than staff suggested. I personally believe that in principle, we got that one backwards.
- The last item was in relation to the funding from our Accommodations Tax (tax from people staying in hotels in the county). We have an Accommodations Tax Commission that looks at all request for ATax money and they in turn make suggestions to council. Recipients have to meet certain criteria to receive these funds - mainly tourism related. Some of the recipients of ATax this year were private, for profit companies. As a principle, I don't believe that we should really be in the business of deciding which companies in our area get tax dollars to help them operate.
Please feel free to contact me if you ever have any questions about my votes or my stance on issues. We are all in this together and the more communication we can have the better. Keep in touch, stay informed and involved! God Bless!
*The SHJ and the Journal both reported correctly that my 'no' vote was based on this second principle, but proceeded to list specific agencies - which I never did. In fact the agencies they chose to list are funded by our Hospitality Tax. These are monies that cannot even be used to fund our departments that are in need. The AP and the Spartanburg County Regional History Museum are indeed 'outside agencies' but they are funded through dedicated monies and not out of the general fund.