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A lose-lose situation

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham

Waynesboro leaders are discussing what to do about the real-estate tax rate.

One option is to raise it four cents, as the city manager has proposed. The second option is to keep it where it is, and make some drastic cuts to services.

We wouldn’t be here if city council had the guts to do the right thing with stormwater.

A utility-fee system splitting the costs of the multimillion-dollar, multiyear improvements down the middle between residential taxpayers and business and industry, with credits and incentives for business and industry for efforts to mitigate the problems caused by their impervious surfaces, is the way to go, clearly.

The costs would be negligible to residential taxpayers, and business and industry, while taking something of a hit, would have the ability to work with the city through the credit and incentive program to reduce in part or eventually in total the burdens that they would have to bear.

The way we’re going to be doing things now puts those burdens almost entirely on residential taxpayers, who will be the ones who suffer the most not only in terms of having to foot the bulk of the bill, but will also be forced to endure reductions in quality of life as a result of cuts in city services that will have to be undertaken to subsume the costs for stormwater improvements in the general fund.

I say that it will take guts for city council to do the right thing, because council members have been hearing it, so to speak, from both sides for months. Even those who advocate a utility-fee-based system don’t agree on the specifics, and that’s by and large why we’re in the predicament that we’re in right now. It’s easier to say to heck with a utility-fee system because it’s too complicated to get a handle on, much less explain to the residential and business public. The general fund is there, will be there, will always be there, let’s just put the bill there and be done with it.

The sad reality is that the easy answer here is not at all the best one. All we’re doing by paying the stormwater bill out of the general fund is delaying the work from getting done in an efficient and effective manner, one, and two we’re mortgaging our present and future by forcing our underperforming school system and economic-revitalization efforts and police and fire and everything else to compete with stormwater for dwindling public funds.

It’s what you call a lose-lose situation.

augusta free press
augusta free press