Home Tracy Pyles: Another low blow from the Augusta County Board of Supervisors

Tracy Pyles: Another low blow from the Augusta County Board of Supervisors

Tracy Pyles
Augusta County
(© Rex Wholster – stock.adobe.com)

This Friday, June 21, the taxpayers of Augusta County will be feeling the effects of a “low blow’ from the Augusta Board of Supervisors.

I use “low blow” rather than “gut punch” because it means unscrupulous as well as hurtful.

Consider what our neighbors might otherwise do with the $30,000,000 being unnecessarily confiscated from their family reserves. Vacations, tuition payments, new vehicles, all the good things hard-earned money can provide will be diminished by dim staffers and dimmer supervisors.

Not one penny is needed, not now anyway.

When meeting for budget discussions at the end of March, the Board had months earlier taken receipt of December’s FY2023 Comprehensive Financial Audit. There, page 13, they could have learned of $85,618,517 described in “highlights” as “unrestricted or may be used to meet the government’s ongoing obligations to creditors and citizens”.

This was written by the county’s Director of Finance.  In the same document, page 122, it was shown taxes outpacing spending by $25,665,675 annually.

Were the Supervisors honest and fair, they could have offered a Board “Mea culpa” and cancelled the half of this year’s taxes due Friday. Absurd? Hardly. Leaving $55,618,517 in available free money is a gracious good plenty.

But they didn’t. Instead, callously, defiantly, they have chosen to boost taxes by a record $12 million in real estate taxes. Where tax-cuts were clearly warranted, seven Republican thundered “heck no, we need our pin money!”

So where to start in explaining how the Board gives cover to its excesses? Well, it begins by accepting dishonest numbers with dismal projections.

This year’s budget offers the actual general property taxes received in Fiscal Years 2021, 2022 ,2023 progressing as: ($69,336,951) ($73,016,226) ($79,389,937) Yet the Finance Director reverses the upward growth in Real Estate when inventing drops of $300,000 this year and $2,000,000 for the budget being created.

The Director also advised the Board, in print, that the other local taxes were falling another $1.5 million over 2 years from the FY23 actual of $25.1 million to $23.6 for FY25 budget setting.

These unsupportable, miscast, numbers are not harmless. Falling revenues justify spending cuts, or for this Board a reason to raise taxes.

We are paying for competent professionals. ($345,490 combined for Administrator and Finance Director). We deserve well-reasoned assumptions based on factual experiences, obvious trends, not “thumbs on the scale” revelations from two seemingly statistically challenged, overpaid, staffers.

Again page 122 of the FY23 Financial Audit is our truth-teller. For that year total property and local taxes were staff projected at $95.7 million while we actually paid $104.5 million.

My bill-paying job required for more than 2 decades my annual budget projections for all raw materials for two U.S. plants and one in Mexico. Had I ever missed by nearly $9 million and 10%, I would have rightly been canned. In this function, “I know of, what I speak”.

The relative simplicity, steadiness, of tax projections suggest continual under-counting to be a result of bias not just incompetence. It needs to end.

If this strikes you as new, important, information you can look to our supervisors for doing all in their power to keep you in the dark. I sought to inform the public of this very abuse at a July 2021 Board meeting bringing up a record $24 million budget excess.

For that public service the Board thanked me by calling me a “jack-ass” (Garber’s word, not mine), a liar, a Pinocchio. From there they shortened how long one could speak at public meetings and have cut off individual use of the County building. (It ain’t paranoia if they really are after you!)

The $85 million slush-fund took time to grow, fertilized by fraudulent numbers. We all deserve better. After a month dedicated to family, I am refreshed (to the degree a 76-year-old can be refreshed) and determined to pick up the dual causes of honesty and fair play.

Get your popcorn popping.

Tracy Pyles is a former chair of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors.