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Opinion

Editorial: It's up to the voters to decide the outcome

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - Updated: 10:40 AM
To renovate the courthouse Massac County’s commissioners have put the 1 percent sales tax question back onto this November’s ballot and voters will be deciding the outcome of the question.
There is no simple or easy solution to the task of renovating the courthouse. Historically, Massac County has never had a tremendous amount of money at its disposal to tackle the tough maintenance issues, which yes, should have been dealt with by earlier boards, but without the finances to fund those items — such as new windows, tuck pointing or new HVAC unit — it makes it hard to keep the courthouse properly maintained.
Previous commissioners have done their best to keep the building “patched” for lack of a better word. It has always been a lack of money issue that has prevented previous boards from tackling a full-blown renovation.
To single out these three commissioners for not maintaining the courthouse is not fair and blaming the current board is not conducive to solving the problem. The courthouse was built in 1942 — 74 years worth of commissioners have sat in the same seats these three are in.
If the 1 percent sales tax passes on Nov. 8, it will have an effect on everyone from individuals, to local businesses and to industries within the county.
Consumers will have to spend more in sales tax on retail items and prepared food. Instead of paying the current 6.25 percent for sales tax, residents would pay 7.25 percent, if the sales tax is passed. Unprepared food, medicines both prescription and over the counter would not be taxed. So consumers will pay one penny for every dollar. Also, an advantage of the sales tax is that not only will local residents be paying the tax, but so will the many tourists who come into our city.
It will affect Joppa’s Electric Energy (EEI) plant. That seems to be the main focus for many people. The plant manager and EEI employees have expressed their opinions on this page too. The letter from employees begins: “There has been much talk lately about the proposed sales tax increase.”
Really, it hasn’t been lately. The commissioners received the original feasibility study in the fall of 2014, they formed the courthouse committee in the summer of 2015, with the first meeting being held in July 2015 and the last meeting held in October 2015. The questions was even on the ballot in the spring election this year. The issue of the 1 percent sales tax has been out in the public’s eye for over a year, and EEI is just now speaking out about it?
Where were EEI employees during all of the courthouse committee meetings held in 2015? Why were they not there to help the courthouse committee and the commissioners to brainstorm ways to renovate the courthouse?
The most recent public meeting held by the county board, one EEI employee was in attendance.
If the sales tax passes, and it will have such an impact on EEI, then why don’t we all find out what we can do to find a solution to help EEI? I think it is safe to say that no one wants to see any more job losses at any of Massac County’s businesses or industries. Let’s look for solutions for the county’s situation and for EEI’s, if the sales tax passes.
Life is full of what ifs — what if the sales tax passes and EEI announces layoffs or shuts down? What if the tax passes and it drives more people across the river to spend their dollars? What if the sales tax doesn’t pass and the county offices face 12 percent cuts or higher to their offices. That could mean lost jobs and a serious cut in services to our law enforcement.
Some comments on The Future of Massac County’s Courthouse Facebook page seem to blame the commissioners and imply they are trying to run off one of the county’s oldest industries. We do not feel that is the case. None of the commissioners want any more jobs to be cut. We’re pretty sure they, like many people in the county, would love to see some job growth in the county and city.
We feel in this situation, the commissioners are trying to do their job as elected officials, which is to operate the county and look out for the county’s best interests.
Drastic cuts to county budgets could mean a decrease in services provided to the county residents because as officeholder Larry Grace told the commissioners during a department head meeting on Sept. 29, “very few dollars are wasted.”
One of the biggest budgets that would get hit hard would be the Sheriff’s Office, and it would likely mean layoffs in that department. Right now our county law enforcement officers are stretched thin and cuts to that department could mean fewer deputies on the road and potentially a higher crime rate.
What if those cuts are not enough to sustain the renovation of the courthouse? The commissioners could decide to collect extra revenue in the form of a real estate tax and property owners already complain enough about property taxes being too high. Also recognize the county commissioners have not even discussed property taxes as a possible source of revenue and furthermore, they would also have to put that onto the ballot for voters to decide.
We as your local newspaper have tried our best to inform the people about the issue of the courthouse and about the proposed sales tax.
By this point — like the national presidential election — people have probably already made up their minds as to how they will vote. If you have not decided and still have questions about the 1 percent sales tax, we urge you to seek out the answers and the vote accordingly. Do not just listen to rumors or half-truths.
Former County Commissioner Jim Modglin has said many times at previous county board meetings: “People have to pay for their government.”
No one has a crystal ball to predict whether it passes or fails. One thing is for certain, no matter which way it is voted on, the 1 percent sales tax will have an effect on everyone in some form or fashion.
Whether people are in favor or opposed to the 1 percent sales tax, that doesn’t change the fact the county does not have $5 million dollars lying around. The county needs the extra revenue to pay for the renovation. One hundred percent of the 1 percent sales tax would go to the county for that purpose.
We’ve done all we can do to present accurate information about it. It’s now up to each and every one of you the registered voters in Massac County to decide the outcome on Nov. 8.
Choose wisely.
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