As your elected County Council, we owe it to you to give a further explanation for why we voted to raise the tax rates for Service Area No. 6 and the Municipal Fund.
Service Area No. 6 pays for the maintenance of subdivision streets within certain designated unincorporated areas of the county. In simple terms, the Municipal Fund (as the name implies) pays for those kinds of services to the unincorporated portion of the county that a municipality would provide if such areas were incorporated. Neither of these tax rates had been raised in decades because, prior to the recession, growth in the tax base provided ample new funds to meet the increasing demand for these funds.
As part of the 2012 budget process last fall, the County Engineering and Public Works departments made the compelling case that our annual investment in routine maintenance of roads in the areas covered by these two funds needed to increase in order to perpetuate the useful life of such roads. If these roads are not kept up, they will ultimately deteriorate to the point that to repair them will be orders of magnitude more costly (structural overhauls rather than just top dressings).
After much discussion, and after conducting our initial Truth In Taxation hearing last year (at which only one or two citizens attended), we voted to raise these tax rates. Beginning this year, the increased rates were estimated to generate annually approximately $177,000 and $1,425,000 for the Service Area No. 6 and Municipal Funds, respectively, at a cost to the taxpayers of about $29 in Service Area No. 6 based on a primary residence valued at $500,000 and about $64 for the Municipal Fund based on a primary residence valued at $480,000 primary.
When it comes to road maintenance, these dollars don't stretch very far. The Engineering Department's target is, on average, to have approximately $3 million annually in the Municipal Fund to invest in these capital road projects and $290,000 in Service Area No. 6 for major maintenance projects.
Now there is a petition drive afoot to block the implementation of this tax increase until it can be put to a vote of the people, which may postpone it until 2014, unless there is a special election. We can live with this outcome if the petition is successful, but it is against our better judgment. The easy thing to have done would have been to continue to defer maintenance of these roads and foist the more expensive responsibility on future councils. We don't believe that is what we were elected to do, but rather that we should pay as we go and not mine the future.
We live in one of the best places in the world and the infrastructure upon which we and our visiting tourists rely should not detract from the experience.