Last updated: June 06. 2014 10:51AM - 343 Views
By Larry Sutton Contributing columnist

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When it comes to fairness in taxation, I believe in everyone pulling his fair share and contributing her fair part for the public good. But this myth of the makers vs. the takers should be debunked and put to rest once and for all, eliminating the growing friction between “the haves and the have-nots.”

The recent decision of the Sampson County Board of Commissioners to seek legislative approval for a quarter-cent sales tax referendum on the November ballot may seem to be an equitable tax because everyone pays the same fixed amount. Actually, this will be an increased burden on the poor because low-income working families pay a higher proportion of their income in sales taxes which means they don’t’ have much left to live on, with little ability to save. So, sales taxes create the largest tax fairness problem, falling hardest on the low-income families who are least able to pay them. We can clearly see that paying the same amount of tax doesn’t mean the impact is the same.

As we continue to wrestle with this 2014-15 budget battle, I think a little debate is a good thing. As a matter of fact, debating the budget is a right and responsibility, for it helps determine the best use of public funds. Plus, it goes a long way in educating the public on what’s best for the greater good.

But at this point in the budget process, it appears that the Sampson Board of Commissioners has once again missed the opportunity for that frank conversation with the citizenry of the county, sharing with the people a detailed assessment of “the state of the county.” It is the responsibility of our county leaders to create an awareness among the citizens about what’s going on by seeking broad public input along the way.

Speaking as someone who tries to maintain a high level of civic engagement, I find the dialogue among the members of the county commissioners to be a bit confusing with some reporting that there’s been no success after repeated attempts to cut spending from the budget. Then, there are others who still assert there’s waste in our government, but they can’t seem to find it. So what’s the truth?

Well, in seeking that truth, one place to start is by contacting your commissioners. Let them know you want to be made aware of the needs and challenges facing the county and the remedies being proposed to offset those challenges.

And, if you want to have your say in debating the budget, there will be a public hearing on June 16 at 7 p.m. in the county auditorium.

No matter how this budget battle is resolved, one thing that is not confusing is the fact that our government will never be able to afford all the services that we need. Without the efforts of so many every day, ordinary citizens, many pressing community needs simply would not be met.

Every year in our county, many people — from PTA members and civic organizations to countless other volunteers — donate their time, effort and money to help make our community a better place to live.

In 1961, President Kennedy challenged the entire nation by saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

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