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GUEST OPINION: Mike Nearman

Levy isn't answer to funding issues

Mike Nearman

Mike Nearman

October 15, 2013

We all agree that public safety is one of the most important -- if not the most important -- services that our Polk County government provides.

Our Polk County commissioners have put a public safety tax levy on the November ballot, saying that fiscal constraints have forced them to make cuts and that they have cut all that they can. They are saying that the only way to continue the current level of public safety is to increase taxes on the already overburdened and struggling citizens of Polk County.

Call me skeptical.

If they're asking the taxpayers for a bailout to fund public safety, this must mean that everything that they spend the general fund budget on must be more important than public safety; otherwise, they would just fund public safety and we would have a general fund tax levy to make up the difference.

One reads in the newspapers about drastic cuts to sheriff's deputies. I don't remember reading about drastic cuts to other departments.

It seems like when Polk County -- or any other level of government -- runs out of money, they always find a way to fund "all of the above" and then have to come, hat in hand, asking for a tax increase for kids, cops and roads -- the very things that Polk County should be doing first.

Nevermind that the sheriff is using higher paid deputies to staff the jail instead of lower paid corrections technicians. Nevermind that at nearly the exact same time county officials were finalizing plans to put this tax levy on the ballot, they were engaged in contract negotiations with the Deputy Sheriffs Association and adding an extra 5 percent step pay increase for deputies. All this at a time when the income levels in Polk County are flat, unemployment is rampant and home foreclosures are still common.

I guess the county gets theirs first.

And this isn't the end of it.

Polk County officials have said that after this levy expires in four years, they intend to go back and ask for the money again. So, after we've spent five years suffering through the "Great Recession," the county will not only ask us to continue on for another four years with the additional burden of a tax levy, its continued solution is just to extend the tax indefinitely.

For some of us, the additional tax burden means not going out for dinner, not going to the car wash or not making some purchase at a local business. For others, it means giving up trips to see loved ones. For a few it means not being able to purchase food or medicine. For the county to now ask for a 35-percent increase in property taxes, when it could reallocate funds from less important "wants," as taxpayers must do, is simply unfair.

Ironically, the major cause for a decrease in revenues to Polk County is the poor economic condition of Polk County. A tax increase will only make this economic condition worse. The solution lies in creating a better Polk County economy.

Join me in voting "no" on the Polk County public safety tax levy.

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Mike Nearman is chairman of the Polk County Republican Party.

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