The three-letter dirty word

Not that many people remember when I took a step toward politics a couple of years ago. It was one of the most emotional experiences of my life. Two months to gather real friends and real money. Whew, I’m sure glad that’s over, after all, the world didn’t fall apart and Chesterfield didn’t slip into the Chesapeake Bay.

The Bermuda Supervisor has given the district some needed improvements and soon citizens will be happy. But what it takes is a partnership. You can’t sit back and let Ms. Jaeckle take care of everything; she is not going to keep developers from building somewhere when they have the right to do so; she is not going to pay your taxes; cut your grass; feed your new baby; babysit your grandkids, but she will listen to your gripes and tell you one way or another what can be done on the government side.

I met with a couple of government folks a couple of months before the referendum and meals tax debacle. I was asked, how do you think the meals tax will go in Bermuda? I answered, it won’t pass. The two county dudes were a little flummoxed. Why is that, they said looking puzzled. I told them as I said to a number of people; it has a three-letter word in the question.

Three-letter word. We have all heard of the four-letter word, so it was hard to come up with the three-letter equivalent. I said TAX. Anything with the word tax attached to it will not pass the muster with citizens in Bermuda, Matoaca, Dale or any other district in Chesterfield.

Call it two-percent meals levy; schools debt reduction; school-bond obligation or debt-obligation fund. Maybe these are deceitful, (maybe illegal) but the tax word just jumps out at you. On the other hand if a voter read the description, which many do not, they would have figured out it was a tax.

Tax it was and tax it will be. Supervisors are now debating how to cover the cost of the bonds. They are voting on releasing the second part of the bond funding for the new radio system for public safety as you read this on December 11. This is something we need. The antiquated radio system in place now was put in place in the 1970s – old by today’s computer standards.

Something that was asked of me two years ago during the campaign for supervisor; how you going to pay for it? I was never able to explain my concept properly.

So here we sit with the axiom “how are you going to pay for it” echoing in my head. But at county offices it is more like be careful what you wish for; you might get it.

Whether it is the dreaded (I really do not know why) real estate tax or a reduction in services; my crystal ball sees one of them on the way; in fact I see a reduction in services on the way because that three-letter word is verboten in Chesterfield.

But I postulate that a reduction service is a tax as well. In the 2008 reduction we lost about 300 administration and about the same school positions, two days of transfer stations (dumps), closing the libraries one day a week, the green house, small park plantings, operational funding for future county projects or outsourcing sports field management.

Meanwhile several positions were awarded to retired employees who now consult for the county. That’s called double dipping. Could not a new employee at less cost be hired in their position?

A loss of service to county citizens is a tax. If you use the dump twice a month, that would cost you $16 or $192 a year. If you pull the door to a library on Thursday, it will not open, or if your children are dropped there after specialty school, where do they go until you arrive? – not inside.

It does not take long to figure out that loss of county services costs more than raising the real estate tax. I think county residents would rather pay a couple of cents more on their property tax than lose some more services such as two days of closed library or three days of dump services or a raise in fees on their children’s sports program.

Tax is a dirty word in Chesterfield County, but losing services is just as nasty. Real estate tax at  2 cents per $100 of your home’s value, if your house value was worth $200,000, would cost you $40. The average home sale in Chesterfield presently is $185,000.

If the county added $40 in real estate tax ($3.33 a month) would you feel it? If you ate at a restaurant two times a month with a 2 cent meals tax; an $8 meal (twice a month) would cost you $3.84 a year. Double it if you eat with your significant other. So you see, at 2 cents per $100 on meals would cost you much more. And you turned it down.

Smart decision if you now embrace the real estate tax increase and tell your Supervisor you want the tax and not another reduction in county services. It is hard to put a value on how much county services cost you, but if you use any county services it has to cost you more than $40 a year. This is the one place where tax should not be a three-letter dirty word.

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