Home Chris Graham: Augusta County right to raise taxes

Chris Graham: Augusta County right to raise taxes


augusta-county2editsWe’re past the point where saying out loud that you support a tax increase makes you a pinko liberal. Republicans are still fighting that battle on TV commercials and in press conferences, but let’s face it, it’s lost.

Government isn’t them against us, despite the rhetoric. Government is us trying to figure out what we want our quality of life is.

Even here in bright red Augusta County, we’re starting to get that. Our County Board of Supervisors voted last night 6-1 to approve a 5-cent increase in the property tax rate to provide more funding for schools and emergency services. The lone dissenting vote came from Marshall Pattie, a former Democratic Party chair (sh-h-h-h!!!!), who represents the rural North River District on the board.

Already we’re seeing critics from the economic right threaten to stuff the ballot box next year to throw da bums out, and this being Augusta County, the do-nothings may get their way in November 2015. It would be a shame if they were to be successful in that.

Augusta County is no longer rural middle of nowhere. OK, sure, the part of the county that I come from, Deerfield, a 53-minute drive from my home in Waynesboro, according to Google, which tells me that Short Pump is only 20 minutes further away, is rural middle of nowhere, God love it. But the bulk of the county’s 74,000 residents live east of Staunton in a population center including the region’s two cities, Staunton and Waynesboro, in a mini-metro environment with nearly 125,000 people.

With two major interstates, 81 and 64, bisecting the region, with an airport, ample rail service, proximity to bigger metro centers in Harrisonburg and Charlottesville, both of which feature major public universities, we’re no sleepy backwater here.

Part of growing up from being a sleepy backwater is provision of public services. Schools, fire and rescue, the sheriff’s department, they all cost. Looking at county budgets, this year and in years past, there are no mohair studies or $400 hammers in the line items; the spending plans that we see coming out of the Government Center in Verona are lean and mean.

But our population is growing, local economic activity is growing, and government spending needs to keep pace. And that necessitates consideration of the tax increase that the Board of Supervisors approved last night.

A politically risky move on their part, to be sure. (That’s why my friend, Marshall, voted against it, I’m sure.) But it had to be done.

Argue against it, vote against the people who supported it when the time comes next year, if you must, but it was the right thing to do. Progress doesn’t come cheap.



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