August 18, 2013

Public needs more warning on possible tax hikes

The Daily Citizen

— Dalton residents could see their property taxes go up this year.

Dalton Public Schools Finance Director Theresa Perry warned school board members last Monday they might have to increase taxes this year to cover all or part of an expected $4.52 million shortfall. Board members noted that it has been more than a decade since they last raised taxes, and some board members indicated that any tax increase would be a “last resort.”

That gives us hope.

Dalton’s economy recovery is still tepid. The unemployment rate is still among the highest in the nation. Most of those who have jobs have real incomes well below what they did just five years ago, thanks to inflation, wage cuts, furloughs and lack of overtime. In short, the last thing Dalton property owners and residents need is to have the government reach a little deeper into their pockets.

What worries us is that board members are talking about setting their property tax rate at a Sept. 9 meeting, barely three weeks away. That gives taxpayers and voters and members of the public little time to go through the school system’s budget. It gives them little time to suggest alternatives to a tax increase or to satisfy themselves that the school system is spending each dollar it takes from taxpayers wisely. It gives them little time to organize any opposition to a tax increase if they believe that the increase is unwarranted.

School officials surely had to know they were facing a multimillion dollar budget shortfall before Monday’s meeting. They surely had to know they might have to consider a tax increase. We wish they had mentioned that possibility earlier.