Tax increase reasonable, more cuts are not

Dear Editor:

Last year I urged the County Commission to take a small step toward increasing the millage rate, maybe a quarter mill, so that more money would start coming in and the following years’ inevitable increases could be a little smaller.

Why would I say inevitable? Because for many years we have been running a deficit, filled by borrowing money from the general fund, the money we are supposed to save for emergencies. We cannot argue that every year is an emergency, yet, do nothing about it.

So, here we are, facing the 10 mill cap and finding both that it isn’t quite enough and the criticism is harsh. I find it absurd that people say to the commissioners, “You better start cutting,” when that’s all they’ve been doing since I’ve been following them. They cut back on what they provide the county thinking they are listening to their constituents’ wishes, then spend the rest of the year with citizens clamoring for more services, especially the roads! It makes no sense.

Last year we had COVID relief funds that plugged some holes in the budget and got money out to residents and companies suffering from the pandemic through lost business, illness, or layoffs. The pandemic is not over, but this year help is not on the way.

We are a poor county, 58th out of 67. Do we complain, do we move away? Or do we take the steps we can to improve our lot as a county? We can’t attract new businesses and hold onto the ones we have without our government providing necessary services; from roads to healthcare to fire fighters. We won’t attract new residents by cutting services, and we won’t hold onto those who grew up here without offering hope. As it stands now, we rely on our elected officials and their staff to search out grants and donations to keep our county going.

Our state and our county have been cutting their budgets for decades, trimming the fat, looking for what we can do without. When you do that for decades, eventually you get down to bare bones. We are there. The proposed tax bills went out. I’ve looked at some of them and the cost of the millage increase, especially for homesteads, is very small. If not homesteaded, the bill is a little higher, but still, not that much. I will be paying a small increase, about $26. Even without homestead, the increase is under $100. For a whole year, this is reasonable. I think people are having a knee-jerk reaction and not looking at the facts. 

The commitment of our new motto, “Better in Bradford” is hollow if we don’t pull together to make it true. I am glad the commissioners are proceeding carefully, asking for the details that back up each department’s summary budget, so they can verify what they are authorizing. They must stand on firm ground. But in the end, this move to raise our taxes by a small amount is unavoidable. We have been running deficits too long and it is past time to turn our county around.

Kate Ellison,