Local politicians keep raising taxes to pay ever more public workers ever higher wages

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Expect more tax increases as our local governments have to vote on the fiscal year 2025 budget this summer. The local governments excel at spending our tax dollars, doing little to build efficiency.

Can’t see the red flags?

After taking a beating during the coronavirus pandemic, consumers are enduring soaring cost of living increases. Do local elected officials care? Can they look beyond themselves?

The economic red flags on inflation are everywhere. Rents are increasing. Grocery prices are still escalating. Credit card debt is at an all-time high. Interest rates are high. Shrinkflation is a reality.

Many cash-strapped residents have not seen a salary increase. However, some of our municipalities and the board of education have taken more money from our wallets and given their employees generous raises and bonuses.

Most people would think continued inflation leading to even more pressure on every family’s budget would lead local governments to immediately find ways to rein in spending and not increase our taxes.

Well, the plight of the taxpayers appears to have had little impact on the budgetary decisions of our elected officials and bureaucrats in the past as our taxes have consistently been increased (see: https://thecitizen.com/2023/08/07/opinion-another-year-another-tax-increase-from-local-governments/).

Government smoke and mirrors

When your local elected officials tell you they are not raising taxes, but will maintain the current millage rate, it’s a tax increase. Our property values consistently increase and if the tax millage rate is not rolled back to reflect the increase in property value, this is accurately called a tax increase.

Do you remember when Peachtree City Mayor Kim Learnard told the news media that new large city employee bonuses, pay raises, and increased pension payments “won’t cost taxpayers a cent,” and then she raised taxes double-digits for fiscal year 2024? (see: https://thecitizen.com/2023/04/10/mayor-misleads-about-cost-of-city-pay-raises/) We shake our collective heads.

To the best of my knowledge, not one elected official in Fayette County has publicly asked how the local government can find ways to rollback the millage rate and prevent a tax increase. Have they forgotten their fiduciary responsibility to the constituents? Is it too easy to spend other people’s money?

Where are all those elected officials who stamped themselves “conservatives” as they asked for our votes (see: https://thecitizen.com/2024/02/05/where-are-the-conservative-politicians/)?

Do they understand local government?

Municipalities’ core responsibilities are public safety, emergency medical services, municipal courts, recreational infrastructure, and public works (streets, sewers, etc.). How efficiently are those departments running?

Everything the city does beyond the core services should be required to go through zero-based budgeting, justified, and approved in each new fiscal year.

If the elected officials will not do it, how about forming a committee of knowledgeable citizens to take a deep dive into the government budgets, looking at eliminating nonessential processes and duplication, asking department directors to find waste, examine reorganizing systems, determine if there are non-essential or low-performing employees, and creating a laser focus on citizen expectations?

Do they care about the constituents?

The elected officials and the bureaucrats may not get out much in our community. We have families that are making it paycheck to paycheck, cutting expenses. We have single moms and senior citizens whose situation has gone from bad to worse.

Looking at the recent double-digit tax increases, I wonder if they ever notice anyone else. Perhaps, they should volunteer at the local food pantries, Meals on Wheels, and non-profit thrift stores.

Of course, we also have some families doing quite well, thank God, and I am certain they would also like to keep more of the money they earn.

We will see how much they truly care in the upcoming budget hearings. State law mandates public hearings for the budget, and the local governments cannot stop you from speaking on this topic.

[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners. You can read all his columns by clicking on his photo below.]

17 COMMENTS

  1. Just received my property tax bill. Once again a tax increase. Fayette Co. actually thinks my home will sell for 22% more than last year? They think my home is worth 12% more than all the other comparable homes that are for sale in my area and that my home is worth 12% more than the value computed by Zillow and other online real estate search engines. Are you kidding me? My appeal is on the way…

  2. I think our PTC Government is doing a better-than-average job. But I prefer PTC not to spend down but increase reserves. I think the FCBOE is also doing a better-than-average job, but I have never in over 30 years been able to decipher their budget. However, I am still disappointed in both of them. Better than average is not great. Both can do a great deal better and should strive to do so. For PTC, quit annexing anything until the infrastructure is ready to install. Bill the annexed property the costs to install the infrastructure. For FCBOE, decrease your administration to teacher ratio costs until we have a greater school system (best in State is nice, best in southeast is better).

  3. BOEs are always the worst. Majority of my property tax bill is for schools. I am actually amazed the county can provide services for the amount of taxes paid compared to the school tax. The BOEs never cost control anything; just use the cloak if “it’s fur the kids”

  4. Steve must not remember the last time we tried to save money by eliminating the in-house landscape crews and using contractors……PTC’s landscaping went from elegant to shabby in the course of a few weeks. I’ll gladly pay a few more dollars to have well-paid crews that work for the city.

  5. Steve is one of those politicians who demands government-based services but expects to receive those services for free. City and County public employees deserve to live and work in the municipality that employs them. The total cost of housing, food, childcare, transportation, health care, taxes, and other necessities for a single adult in Peachtree City is greater than the annual cost of living for Georgia. An employee of PTC receives an average wage between $12 an hour/24K per year to $32 an hour/$66K per year. The average household income in PTC is $150K. So, anyone employed by PTC is not making enough to actual live in PTC. And that is exactly how politicians like Steve Brown want it. Public employees should be seen and not heard. And they need to live (and raise their families) somewhere else, other than PTC.

    • G – Let’s talk facts, not engage in bloviations worthy only of Twitter. We need to look honestly at the housing affordability situation, with cause and effect.

      The main cause of unaffordable housing is government, starting with Bidenomics’ blowing trillions into the economy, causing the worst cycle of inflation since the ‘70’s. And Biden’s 2025 federal budget continues to spend our country deeper into a debt hole, even adding hundreds of billions in others’ student loans for taxpayers to pay off.

      This shows up in higher interest rates, notably mortgage rates that have more than doubled from 2-3% before Biden to over 7% now. Add in home price inflation from a median home price of $320,250 in 2019 to $426,167 in 2023 according to Bankrate, leading to the median mortgage payment that is over $1,000 per month higher under Biden, and it is no wonder most people are squeezed out of the housing market.

      Housing supply is also millions of units short nationwide, as builders focus on premium homes where they can make a profit. Of course, Bidenflation also runs through the cost of housing materials, labor, home insurance and professional repairs. No surprise. We’re all paying over 20% more in cost of living since Biden took office.

      Supply is further constrained due to potential sellers with 2-3% mortgages who can’t sell since they are unable to absorb a 7% mortgage. Those who do sell are holding out for a premium to make up for their added mortgage costs. Millions of illegals who need shelter are also taking up units and adding to price pressures.

      And to Steve’s point, in light of all of this, what are our local government officials doing? Are they focused on efficient and effective services? Spending priorities? If I am not mistaken, PTC is spending over $500,000 to make the cart bridge over 54 west pretty.

      We should pay our city employees well, especially our first responders. But we need a mayor and council that get the most out of our taxes, not just allow home price inflation to jack our property taxes without relief from millage rates. This is yet another brick in the “housing affordability” wall.

      We have an incredibly serious situation with our government and taxes that we are all seeing and feeling. It is time to hold officials accountable to us, and vote only for those willing to be responsible with our money.

      • Oh yes, and let’s not forget that Joe Biden is also responsible for cancer, JFK’s assassination, and sunspots. But at least he’s not a CONVICTED FELON.

        You can’t make this stuff up!

        • And we’re suppose to believe this Kangaroo Konvention isn’t politically motivate or linked to try and bolster a failing presidential campaign for the Democrats. You know I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Trump, but after seeing this clown show and how far this administration has perverted justice, you can bet $200 million in campaign funds raised over the weekend it won’t be for Ole Joe.

        • Wow STF. Proving once again that you have nothing but playground blather and partisan snark to offer instead of factual debate.

          Moving on from your insightful grasp of government tax and spending consequences, I see you approve of the Trump trial outcome. Care to opine on all of the anomalies and violations of due process and law to get there, not to mention the horrible precedent of seeking to imprison a political opponent?

          Thought starters: 1) Democrats’ 10-year quest to say or do anything to damage Trump, aided by social and mainstream media 2) a local Soros-sponsored district attorney who ran on a promise to “get Trump” 3) charges that were beyond the statute of limitations 4) it’s a common practice by companies to pay their way out of legal issues 5) one potential violation got over-charged to make 34 instances of the same action 6) BUT the Federal Election Commission and DOJ both investigated and passed on bringing charges 7) numerous White House interactions with prosecutors, including sending a top DOJ official into a local trial 8) a left-cause donor judge who should have recused himself due to bias, and conflict with a daughter who makes millions fund-raising for Democrats off the trial 9) the judge would not allow the defense to bring expert testimony on election law 10) prosecutors allowed to ask about whether jurors get their news from Fox, but did not allow defense attorneys to ask about left-leaning news sources 11) judge did not allow a move to a neutral site out of a 95% left voting jurisdiction 12) judge did not recuse the jury 13) the judge allowed irrelevant and biased testimony from two proven liars with a professed mission to damage Trump as the prosecution’s key witnesses 14) judge did not require the prosecution to name specific charges until the end of the trial(!), and then allowed jurors to convict if they thought any of the three possibilities applied – – even if they did not all agree on which of the them were violations. And on it goes.

          STF – you do understand that the prosecutor who is abusing the legal system to get Trump is the same one who recently released a handful of illegals shown on video assaulting two NYC police officers with no charges (and one gave us all the finger on the way out!), don’t you? He’s not interested in “justice”.

          I realize some people are so blinded by TDS they cannot see the incredible wrong and future damage this “show me the man and I’ll find the crime” trial is bringing to our country. I hope others who can cut through the media bias, who still have a belief in the principles that made our country great, will reject this for what it is – – a political hit job.

          • Hi Penny – When you get the video of 45 shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, I’m sure you’ll make the same arguments. Three recent courts weighed the evidence and all found him guilty of the offenses (defamation, fraud by inflating assets, and improperly hiding payoffs to influence the election). I guess all the courts are against this innocent man. Maybe the crooked judges on the Supreme Court will find a way to exonerate him. Rich white guys rarely pay judicial penalties.

            You can see 45 for the lying criminal that he is or believe what Sean Hannity tells you to believe. Your choice.

      • I’m sorry, I don’t find any of your arguments convincing. You keep referring to Bidenomics and Biden’s budget. If that is the standard, the inflationary pressure began under Trump in response to the pandemic. I’m not judging him for that, because hindsight is 20/20, and he had to make decisions in the moment. But if I can give him that grace, it doesn’t make sense for you not to do the same. Further, if we are actually talking about fiscal policy, that comes from CONGRESS who holds the purse strings, not the President. Congress already agreed to a 1% budget increase for FY 2025.

        Housing supply is a very local issue. And Peachtree City falls short on this metric. Pitch any version of growing the housing in the market, and Steve Brown will come screeching in to warn about the dangers of density. If you’ve ever heard the old joke about food–“cheap, good, fast; pick 2”–the same holds for taxes: low density, low taxes, good services; pick 2. If we as a community pick low density and good services, that leaves higher taxes as a result.

        Lastly, the cart bridge replacement was not about making it prettier. It was about making one of the most heavily travelled cart bridges “two-lane” so that traffic can go both ways as opposed to the status quo where people have to wait on either side. In addition, that was part of the 2017 SPLOST projects so (a) no effect on today’s taxes and (b) the City is obligated by law to complete that project.

        • Blake – Thank you for making the rational and insightful argument.

          Penny cannot fathom that the deficit spending in 2020 through the CARES act could have any negative financial impact because his president could not possibly be responsible for even the most minor problem. However, the IRA’s deficit spending has been cataclysmic. Never mind that the U.S.A. economy has weathered the post-pandemic much better than most western nations, it simply can’t be granted that the current president can find his back side with two hands.

          As Dr. Johnson accurately observed, “Prejudice, not being founded on reason, cannot be removed by argument.”

        • Blake – I’m mostly with you on your first point. Trump / Congress spent heavily in the early days of Covid because government was shutting down businesses, schools and travel, and those funds provided a financial bridge until things were clearer.

          Fast forward two years, when the scope and impact of Covid was much better known and controlled, Biden / Congress passed several special trillion dollar spending bills like the “Inflation Reduction Act” in 2022 (aka the mini Green New Deal, filled with pet climate projects) that further inflamed inflation. So nay nay, Biden deserves no “grace” for more wild spending of money we didn’t have, and had to borrow putting us further in debt.

          The President creates the budget agenda and priorities for his party in Congress, which sets the stage for negotiations PLUS the President has veto power, which greatly shapes whatever comes out of Congress. So Biden definitely has a key role, if not primary role, in the national budget process.

          Housing is a local AND regional AND national issue. I listed many of the non-PTC causes of supply and affordability above – – government regulations, doubled mortgage rates, home price inflation, cost of materials and labor, 10,000,000 illegals to house, plus rising household debt, Sunbelt migration, etc that also impacts what is possible in PTC.

          Besides, you have yet to make your case as to why PTC owes “affordable housing” to anyone, who pays for it, where it goes and how it impacts the community. What evidence do you have that higher density will continue good services while also lowering taxes?

          As to my comment about the bridge on 54, you mistook 54 west for 54 east. I’m fully in favor of the cart bridge replacement on 54 east. It was identified as a priority project for the community, funded by SPLOST, etc, so points for our city leaders.

          On the other side of town, past Huddleston and over the wad of traffic on 54 west is a relatively new cart bridge that I was referring to. I’m fairly certain I saw a notice that council OK’d spending over $500,000 to do landscaping there, and no one has corrected me. If so, we need to re-focus on priorities and fiscal discipline, as Steve wrote. Cheers.

          • You may be correct that Trump / Congress spent heavily in the early days of Covid but you conveniently omit that tax revenues were severely cut prior to this causing a greater deficit hole than what should have been. I get the campaign promise to lower taxes and it has great appeal but when it’s unwise to do so, that’s another problem. Perhaps that explains further why DJT has had to file for numerous bankruptcies over the course of his career. And now he wants to play with other people’s money again through the greater assistance this time of campaign donations (aka an idiot tax). As for the latter half of your statement / comments with Blake, I have no issues, carry on.

          • I think we are just going to have to disagree on the national-level politics. There’s several points I disagree with even at a factual level, but I doubt we would convince each other, so I don’t see value in wasting the time of either of us.

            Re: affordability. I will point out that I have NOT argued that PTC owes affordability to other folks. Is that my personal opinion? Yes. Do I believe that my opinion alone gives me the right to dictate what our community does? No.

            I do, however, believe that PTC can’t have its cake and eat it too. If we decide to maintain lower density, we have to take the consequences of that choice. The argument to costs is common sense: most costs scale with land area, not directly with population. Imagine if PTC was twice as large with the same population as today. We would need more police stations, more fire stations, more roads, etc. simply to provide coverage. Yes, population plays a role, but it is not the dominant factor. This is immediately obvious from the PTC “breakeven” point of ~$500k for a home to pay for the services it consumes. Not all homes are worth that much; I doubt there is an apartment or condo complex that isn’t worth $500k combined.

            Re: 54, my apologies for misinterpreting. Yes, this is for landscaping, but still not just to make it “pretty.” It’s for a specific kind of plant that the City says will help with erosion, which has been an issue. And it was funded from 2017 SPLOST as well, not current tax dollars. This was approved at the March 21 meeting and you can see the minutes of the discussion in the April 4 meeting packet.