Aiken politicians are asking taxpayers to approve a continuation of the Capital Projects Sales and Use Tax for another seven years.
The current tax expires in 2012, and elected officials understand that taxpayers are facing massive tax increases in 2011 from both federal and state government, and by the end of next year, we will be fed up with paying higher taxes. The year 2011 will be the year we have to pay up for the unrestrained spending by elected officials on a state and federal level.
WE'VE ALL HEARD our elected officials and their supporters tell us how essential passage of the 1-cent sales tax is. But we've already watched as the city of Aiken's budget increased by 43 percent between the years 2003 and 2009 -- yet the population in the city during those same years only increased 14 percent. A perfect example of government growth is the proposed expansion of the Municipal Building. Government grows while we tighten our belts.
In 2000 the first Capital Project Sales and Use Tax "take" was for $54 million. In 2004, the take was $114 million. Beginning in 2012 the take will be about $145 million. Wouldn't that money be better spent by taxpayers at local stores to help businesses get through these terrible economic times?
Since most cities now have a 1-cent tax as we do in Aiken County, don't be fooled by those who tell you that some large percentage of the take will be paid by visitors. In traveling you will continue to pay the tax to other cities. The end result is you pay 100 percent of the tax whether it's here in Aiken County or in some other county in this or another state.
Generally, when a tax is instituted it is forever. The Capital Projects Sales and Use Tax, however, can be and should repealed by the voters. It's our one and only way to curb the excessive spending of our out-of-control government.
Aiken County taxpayers will pay $3 million for an addition to the Municipal Building; $1.4 million for city facilities, City Hall and community centers in New Ellenton; $5.5 million for new park development and the construction of a new gymnasium and Riverside Activities Center in North Augusta; and $5.25 million for upgrading existing recreation facilities and parks; and for improving the events center and rowing course at Langley Pond (remember the $20,000 in repairs for a pool that was used by fewer than 400 people and took in less than $800 this year?).
THAT'S JUST THE tip of the iceberg. There are more projects than could be listed here. A review of the projects, despite a lack of details, reveals that more than 30 percent of the $144,655,000 will be wasted projects that are nonessential to Aiken county taxpayers. While some of the projects may be essential, there is little detail to justify the projects or their cost estimates.
It seems that in this economic climate, called the worst financial situation since the Depression, politicians just don't get it -- the country is virtually bankrupt, yet they continue to waste our money.
Some of the most egregious spending is proposed by the city of Aiken, where some elected officials just can't stop coming up with ways to spend our money on projects that are not needed at all, let alone during an economic recession.
Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their homes, their savings and have learned how to make do with less. But the city council and the Aiken Corporation continue to waste taxpayer money on non-core function, nonessential or special-interest-group projects. The train depot and the African-American Museum and Cultural Center are just two examples.
In May taxpayers sent a message to the Aiken County school board by soundly defeating their request for $236 million. On Nov. 2, taxpayers should send the same message to local government: Not one penny more until you cut out nonessential projects and fund infrastructure through annual budgeting using the property tax.
Finally, threats to cut services or increase our property taxes will be met with a response at the polls in 2011.
(The writer is chairman of the Aiken County Tea Party.)