Speak up on budget choices

Jun 06, 2013

Between now and the third week in June or so, residents across the county have the perfect chance to weigh in on the everyday government issues most of us take for granted.

That’s because both city and county elected officials are preparing to adopt budgets for the coming year, and the details in those documents set priorities for funding everything from law enforcement to infrastructure improvements to recreation or education and more.

In one case, there’s an education issue that won’t even be part of the upcoming budget hearing process. Elected school leaders decided that four more school resource officers and four additional guidance counselors weren’t the priority they once thought and withdrew the budget request. That’s unfortunate because federal, state and county officials determine the budget levels; school leaders are charged with deciding what is best for students. Their action in withdrawing the request showed either the request was not essential or they lacked the conviction needed to press forward.

In addition to deciding funding priorities, local government budgets also determine how much property tax residents and business owners will pay to fund government services. While local governments have multiple sources of income, the primary source that is strictly under their control is the property tax rate.

For the coming fiscal year, all entities in the county have crafted budgets that include no tax hikes. For the most part, there are no drastic changes in the status quo, but there are a number of requests that weren’t granted, either, as leaders held the line on spending.

In the next week or two, there are public budget hearings scheduled for the county, Waynesville, Canton, Clyde and Maggie Valley that allow citizens to weigh in on whether they agree with the priorities set in the budgets.

This is a classic case where silence shows agreement on the decisions that impact our daily lives in Haywood County. If that’s true, great. If it isn’t the case, take the time to become informed and then involved.