Your tax dollars at work

By: By Mac McPhail - Contributing columnist

I never liked going to court. But sometimes it was necessary while I was working with the N.C. Dept. of Revenue. I never really liked being the mean tax man, but sometimes there was no other option.

I had much rather work with the taxpayer in collecting what was owed. Taking a taxpayer to court meant that I had been unsuccessful in collecting the taxes due by other methods. Also, when you went to court, you were dealing with outside forces that might not see things the way you do. I had good relationships with those in the courtroom, the judges, the district attorneys, the lawyers and other court officials. But you never knew for sure if they would be in a cooperative mood when your case was called.

But probably the thing I disliked the most about going to court was all the time it took from my busy work day. Sitting in the courtroom waiting for your case to be called would drive me crazy. Especially since most of my cases were simple and could be handled quickly.

One day I was sitting in court in another county waiting for court to begin. It was already almost an hour behind schedule. From where I was sitting I could see back into the judge’s chamber. I could see the judge joking around with a couple of lawyers while the rest of us in the courtroom waited. As I looked around the courtroom, I saw a couple of highway patrolmen, a probation officer and other court officials also waiting. These were all state employees, being paid by state taxes, which was being wasted. It really irritated me, seeing tax dollars being wasted. Because I knew how hard it was for some people to pay their taxes, and how hard it was for me to try to collect it.

I had that same feeling this past Tuesday. Although almost no one knew it, or bothered to vote, there was an election last Tuesday. This is understandable, since there was only one contest on the ballot here in Sampson County. It was for a N.C. Supreme Court judge seat, where almost no one knew the candidates. But yet we were still there, working at the polls. There were six poll workers at our precinct Tuesday, just as there were six at all of the twenty three voting locations in Sampson County.

The folks at the Sampson County Board of Elections knew the turnout for Tuesday’s election would be very low. So they planned on using the minimum number of workers at each voting location. That would have been three – the chief judge, and two other judges. That would have been more than enough, considering the low turnout.

But the N.C. Board of Elections thought otherwise. They insisted that all polling places to add three clerks to each polling place, for a total of six. So I was recruited to work. Well, maybe not work much. At the end of the long day, polls open from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM, we had 41 people vote at our precinct. Six poll workers for forty-one voters! The low turnout was similar in the other twenty-two voting sites in the county.

So, as I sat around, waiting for someone to come in and vote, I started doing some math. (Doing math? Yes, I was bored!) The three extra clerks (and that’s including me) at our voting location was costing the county a little over $400 for that special election. Multiply that by the twenty-three precincts in Sampson County and you get $9,200. That’s over nine thousand dollars in Sampson County tax revenue. That is money out of someone’s pocket that they paid for property tax, a fee, a license, etc. The Sampson County Board of Elections didn’t want to spend it. But the state board insisted otherwise.

Like I wrote earlier, it’s all those years collecting tax money that makes me notice and become irritated when I see tax revenue being wasted or misspent. I suppose when compared to all the money government spends, the $9000 spent to pay us unneeded clerks at the polls last Tuesday was just a drop in the bucket. And I know that there are millions of dollars being wasted every year, especially by the federal government. That may be so, but what if the money spent is the taxes I paid, my drop in the bucket? Or yours?

Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at

By Mac McPhail

Contributing columnist

Mac McPhail McPhail

Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at