You lose some, you lose some

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

“The budget will allow services to remain substantively intact while shielding already strapped taxpayers from increased cost.”

That’s definitely one way to look at the city budget. Another view that I’ve been advancing is that we’re actually losing on both ends.

Because services aren’t going to be what they should be. We’re still 10 firefighters short of meeting national staffing standards. We’re still at 86 percent deployable force in our police department. We’re getting less than half the stormwater improvements in year one that we should be getting. And we’re paying four cents more on the tax rate to get this, ahem, level of service.

And for that matter, we’re still in the 20th century when it comes to paying our taxes and fees. Thank the ultraconservative majority for that when you’re standing in line at the treasurer’s office.

Don’t thank them, though, for keeping your taxes in line. If they do stormwater the right way, creating a utility-fee system to provide a stable and enduring source for revenues that will guarantee that we get the job done, and that we do so on time, the average Waynesboro resident ends up paying $6 or $7 a month in fees associated with stormwater, and those cost savings that city council found on Monday night that resulted in $600,000 in budget cuts could have been returned to taxpayers in the form of a four-cent tax cut.

Four cents on a $175,000 house equates to $70 a year. Which also equates basically to revenue-neutrality when you factor in the stormwater fee, and that’s assuming that we couldn’t find another $100,000 or $200,000 or more in the budget to knock another penny or two off the tax rate.

I mean, come on, they cut $600,000 in two hours Monday night, and left quite a few things on the table that didn’t sound all that important to non-wonks like me.

Times are tight. I realize that as well as anybody else. A media owner makes money from advertising, and advertising is among the first things that many businesses and industries cut in times of economic slowdown. But just because times are tight doesn’t mean that we can’t plan for the future. And I worry that we’re going to be suffering there big time.

Waynesboro deserves better.


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