It seems like every government agency and its dog is looking for “secure funding”. Whether it is the jail, OSU Extension Service, the public schools, the museum, the public library,... the list is almost endless. Every government agency now wants their own taxing district so they can ensure funding from year to year without worry whether the Commissioners might cut their budgets because of poor cost management and/or declining tax receipts.
What if JELD-WEN wanted the same thing, secure funding? As one of the largest employers in Klamath County, what if JELD-WEN asked tax payers for just $1.00/$1,000 in order to ensure they could keep jobs here in the Klamath Basin instead of shipping them to North Carolina? What if the local bakery wanted the same thing to help local bakeries be better prepared to survive a future economic down turn? And how about all the lawyers and accountants? We certainly need their services in our little community, so why shouldn't the rest of us sacrifice just a little bit more to ensure secure funding for these businesses too?
Hopefully you can quickly see how this idea is endless and unworkable. So this begs the question, why does government need “secure funding” when the rest of us (who pay the taxes) don’t get such assurances in our personal or professional lives? I suppose the response would be, “Well Mr. Smith, that's because we need certain government services, and we can't afford to not have them.” I agree with this statement to a point — if we can properly define what the word “need” means. There are indeed a few services a county government needs to and should provide. But those services belong to a very limited set. Most of the things county government provides are really wants by special interest groups cleverly disguised as community needs.
Think about it, do we really need ALL the free services that the county library provides? Again, the question is not whether we want them or whether we like them, but do we need them? Do we really need ALL the services the County Museum provides? How about the OSU Extension Center? Do we need ALL of those services, and yet we ALL are forced to pay for them. Or instead are many of these services just the wants of a few, well organized individuals who have fooled the public in the past that their wants are instead community needs?
Special Taxing Districts for every government service under the sun is a bad idea. It takes our county in the wrong direction, making it increasingly more and more expensive to do business here. This means our county becomes less and less attractive to outside businesses and residents, which leads to stagnation at best and declining into a county of irrelevance at worst. Furthermore, moving to a tax model where there are special taxing districts for every aspect of government shifts the power of policy making and priorities away from elected officials and bestows it on special interest groups. Moreover, there is relatively little accountability to the general public on how those tax dollars are spent. For example, what kind of influence do you have on how the museum operates or the public library utilizes its tax dollars? Finally, to undo these special taxing districts is a far more difficult task than replacing a commissioner or two through the election process. If everything is already fixed by special taxing districts, then we have little representation in government by those who set priorities of how our tax dollars are spent and then held accountable for those decisions.
And, that my friends, is where we are headed — to a county where Commissioners (who are elected to represent our interest) have less and less influence on how tax dollars are spent while our taxes continue to increase for the same or declining amount of county services — of course, unless we are fooled to pay more.