County Commissioners Randy Dallke and Dan Holub set an ambitious goal for the upcoming budget process — cutting county property taxes by about three mills, or 4.4 percent — while Roger Fleming remained fairly quiet on the matter. That would be an impressive reversal of a trend that has seen county property taxes increase 13.1 percent since 2007. Taxes have increased every year in that time.
I wish them luck. It takes a lot of willpower to cut taxes, because that means cutting budgets. Yes, cutting taxes is popular with the general public, but commissioners hear more from department heads than from the general public, and department heads are more motivated to keep their budgets steady than Joe Q. Taxpayer is to see his taxes go down. Even a three-mill decrease in property taxes is only a $17.25 difference for a $50,000 home.
Cutting property taxes will require the willpower to say “no” to a lot of requests. Having covered the commission for most of the past five years, I feel safe saying commissioners have the willpower to do just that, if they decide that is what they really want to do.
Fortunately, the commission isn’t so foolish as to make a blanket edict that every department cut its budget by 4.4 percent. To make intelligent cuts, department heads and the commission will have to take a careful look line item by line item to decide what needs to stay and what can go.
— ADAM STEWART