The one cent road tax election is an important issue for Drew County

Next week – on July 2 – the early voting will begin for the Drew County road tax special election. It will be held in the club room of the Drew county Courthouse from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The regular election day is July 9 and all voting precincts in the county will be open.

Now that I’ve informed you about when you can vote, I’d like to take a minute to help you understand – in my own, simple words – why this election is important. This election is important to every citizen in Drew County.

The first thing you need to know is that this is not a new tax. This tax has been paid in Drew County for many years. This is a renewal of the same road tax that’s made other counties envious of our county roads. It’s the same tax that has taken most of our county roads from gravel to pavement. This tax has funded our roads for a long time. The election is needed to simply renew this tax for another six years.

However, there is something new about the tax this time — the re-allocation of 25 percent of the money generated. This means instead of putting that 25 percent in the road fund, where it can only be used for materials and equipment, the money will go into county general, where it can be used for anything including salaries to pay those employees who use the equipment and materials paid for through the road fund. That’s it.

Why is this important? The answer to that question is found with simple mathematics. The county is spending more than it’s bringing in because it hasn’t gotten ‘a raise’ since 1983. Everything has gone up, but the revenue hasn’t changed. To offset the cost, the county has been taking money from the reserve fund to financially support county operations.

With all that said, let’s look at this on a smaller scale.

The reserve is like my savings account I have in the bank. It’s not much, but Jimmy and I try to save a little so we can have money should we need it in case of emergency. I’m sure many of you try to do the same. That’s all the reserve is for the county – it’s a savings account in case the county needs it.

I dip into my savings when I don’t have enough to cover something. Like I do and a lot of you do, the county has had to dip into its savings account a lot over the years – to the point where there’s not much left.

Like I said, the county hasn’t gotten a raise since 1983.

The federal minimum wage in 1983 was $3.35 per hour. That means if you worked 40 hours per week, your paycheck before taxes was $134. With that basic income, the monthly total was about $536. Imagine paying all the bills you have plus buying groceries on that each month. It’s not very practical.

That’s where the county is right now except instead of wages they are talking about millage increases.

The court hasn’t raised the millage since 1983 so it’s like they are making that smaller “wage” but all the expenses have gone up as time has passed. Instead of raising the millage, the quorum court and elected officials have made the necessary cuts to meet budget. But, when they fall a little short, they’ve taken money from the reserve.

 Now, we’ve already talked about what dipping into our savings does. At my house, if I am getting money out of savings, I am certainly not in shape to put money into savings. Neither is the county. They are $250,000 away from having  nothing to fall back on. While that’s a lot of money to me personally, when you are running a government, its not much money.

While the millage rate has not increased, the property values have over the years. So the county has been able to get more money with the 1.8 mills than it did in 1983. But, it is still not enough to sustain the county government.

Now that I’ve told you why we, as voters, are being asked to make this decision, I want to give you a glimpse of what might happen should this measure not pass.

First and foremost, those roads everyone is in ‘awe’ over will not be maintained properly. So if you think there are some trouble areas in the county now, give it a little while without proper road maintenance. Then, you’ll really see problems.

The second thing that will happen is that the quorum court will indeed be forced to raise the millage rate from 1.8 mills. I am guessing they will increase it to around 5.0 mills. So if you were complaining about your property taxes in the past, they will nearly triple and you will really be complaining.

But, even with the millage raise, our county would still not be able to maintain the roads or the county because it just isn’t going to generate enough revenue.

I honestly don’t know what will happen at that point. If it were me personally, I’d get a second job on top of cutting corners. But, the county has cut as much as they possibly can and a second job really isn’t an option for a government entity.

Basically, if this measure does not pass, Drew County will be in trouble financially.

What will happen if the road tax does pass? The quorum court will be able to access 25 percent of the revenue generated from the one-cent road tax to  cover other things the county needs instead of dipping into the reserve fund. Hopefully, over time, the court will be able to put money back into the reserve so that it will be there for future generations of Drew County residents. The county general millage will stay at the 1983 rate of 1.8 mills so that property owners won’t have to pay more taxes.

Basically by approving this change in the one-cent road tax, we are allowing people who come into Drew County to help fund our government. A lot of people come to Drew County to shop. A lot people come into Drew County to attend sporting events. Simply put a lot of people come into Drew County period. When they come into our county, they buy things at Walmart, the convenience stores along the way, and at other retail outlets. It doesn’t matter where they purchase these items. What matters is they buy things here. This road tax gets one cent off of every dollar spent in Drew County. So instead of the burden being placed on Drew County property holders alone, those shoppers take some of that burden away. Simply put – those shoppers can pay for the needs of our county and our roads. With everyone helping out, the burden isn’t so heavy. So, I encourage each of you to get out July 9 and vote.

(Melissa  Cason is a staff writer for the Adance-Monticellonian. Contact her at melissadcason@gmail.com.)

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