Monday, November 9, 2015

Op-Ed: Is Vernon's tax-hike justified?

by Chris Robertson

Did you read The Lamar Democrat last week? I sure did. The write-up on the latest Vernon City Council meeting got my full attention. I found it interesting that the same administration that has recently been boasting of a surplus of funds is suddenly calling for a sales tax increase. It was said that the tax increase was needed for special projects like road paving. You know, for roads like the one behind the courthouse which is now essentially nothing more than dirt. Was the delay in paving Backstreet justified, or are we being “shown” we need a tax increase? Where did the budget surplus go? I’m not making accusations, I’m asking questions. How did we go from having a surplus to needing a tax increase in one year?

Before I get sidetracked, let’s get back to last week’s write-up in the Democrat. In the article, the mayor stated that he had heard very little opposition to the increase. But how many local businesses were polled? Did the opinion of the business owners matter, or was the tax hike a foregone conclusion? 

Vernon's city sales tax rate will be
increasing to 9% as of Jan.1, 2016.
The mayor also said one merchant was concerned over business going to Mississippi. I have a startling revelation for the mayor; business HAS been going to Mississippi for a long time. I have a daughter who lives in Columbus, so I make numerous trips over there each week and usually fill up my gas tank before heading back to Vernon. Why? Because a gallon of gas costs on average $0.20 to $0.25 per gallon more in Vernon than the same gallon of gas in Columbus. If Vernon had competitive gas prices, would you buy all of your gas here? I know I would. If we all did, what would that mean for our tax revenue?

Next in the Democrat’s article, the mayor is quoted as saying, “I think if we audited every business, we could stay at 8%, might even go to 7%. I know there are alot of business owners who probably don’t pay their fair share.” Stop right now and read that last quote again. If you are a business owner in Vernon, what do you think of that statement? Am I to believe that crooked business owners are to blame for the tax increase? If the mayor knows there are corrupt businesses cheating on their taxes in Vernon, then why does he continue to allow them to do so? Who has the responsibility of city tax collection and enforcement of these tax laws?

I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts. First and foremost, these questions are mine and mine alone. Don’t hate my family or my dog because I ask annoying questions. Before my illness, I had a career in which I was successful at going into a bad situation, isolating the problems, and streamlining common sense solutions. Today, I’m a concerned, tax-paying citizen like most of you. I neither hold nor seek an office, but I do expect transparency and accountability from those who do.

Come January 1st, 2016, Vernon will have a sales tax increase. It was voted in unanimously by our mayor and city council members. Was it absolutely necessary? Was it the only solution to the problem? I don’t know. To answer that question I would first have to be convinced there actually was a problem.

Chris Robertson is a 1985 graduate of LCHS and spent 16 years with Flowers Foods before health issues forced his retirement in 2004. He now devotes his time to his faith, his family, and arguing with Liberals. Follow him on Twitter at @chipinbama 

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