County officials should remember that all citizens pay taxes
Jefferson County Mayor Alan Palmieri and some of our County Commissioners are looking for ways to “increase the revenue stream.”
Perhaps the first thing that members of the Committee can do is be straightforward and honest with the public. It may very well be that Jefferson County needs more money, indeed there are few who know much of anything about the county’s finances who would argue that point (indeed, when learning more, this writer has himself encountered facts about Jefferson County’s fiscal situation that he was previously unaware of). Our county officials who are looking into the question, however, need to quit beating around the bush with fancy wording like “revenue stream and sources” or “avenues of revenue.” The Mayor and Committee members are looking for ways to implement new taxes and fees-they are trying to figure out, in the simplest terms, how to raise our taxes.
One thing that some people need to get out of their head is that there is no such thing in Jefferson County, Tennessee or anywhere else as a “non-taxpayer.” Anyone who lives, works, shops, or eats in Jefferson County pays taxes here. Just because you don’t own property-and, by the way, this writer does-doesn’t mean you don’t pay taxes. Did you buy groceries at the Food City this week? You paid Jefferson County taxes. How about eat at the Gondolier? You paid taxes in Jefferson County. Stop at the Dunkin Donuts in the Wilco Hess in White Pine? County Commission is going to get your dime. Pay your property taxes this year? Need I say more?
Commissioner Roger Griffith, who Chairs County Commission’s Finance Committee, correctly points out that 70% of the county’s residents work outside of the county, and so Jefferson County is losing tax revenue as a result. Griffith is correct, of course, but he also surely knows that any increase in taxes of any kind is either going to have an adverse impact either on expenditure by the public (to tax something discourages the public from doing it-for example, Jefferson County’s 2.75 sales and use tax makes non-grocery items taxed as high as 9.75% when State taxes are added. We are already higher than Knox County and are the same as neighboring Hamblen. People already living close to the Knox County line might be inclined to shop in Knox County where they will pay slightly less).
Many people accuse conservative Republicans of being so completely opposed to tax that we will oppose any and all tax increases and will support any and all tax repeals. Although this would certainly be a wonderful idea in a perfect world, we know that the world isn’t perfect, and we understand that government must provide primarily for the safety of its citizens, and in Tennessee government is constitutionally obligated to provide a means to educate the citizenry as well. These things cost something, and as prices inflate, those costs increase.
What a good government should avoid are tax increases that are either unnecessary or avoidable, and it does this by not doing for people what they could or should do for themselves. Government should also not be in the business of levying taxes on one segment of society at the expense of another. In other words, we should avoid any tax policy at any level of government-but certainly at the local level-that would essentially result in either “soaking the rich” or “soaking the poor.” It has always been the case, but is especially true in today’s economic climate, that who is “rich” or who is “poor” is often in the eye of the beholder-perception is not always reality.
Finally, our County Mayor and Commissioners would be most wise to remember that no one who lives in Jefferson County does not pay taxes here. If someone lives here, they are either paying property taxes, sales taxes, wheel taxes, or all of the aforementioned. A tax increase is a tax increase, no matter who is paying the tax. If the county feels the need to raise taxes in any fashion, it should be because there are simply no other options to be had, and then a very good justification for the increase must be made to the people of Jefferson County.