The Aiken County Board of Education is again trying to slip another 4.6-mill tax increase through the back door, right under our noses.
In 2010 there was a special election for just this kind of item on the agenda, and 70 percent of the voters in Aiken voted “no.” Yet they continue to try to get additional monies every year in different formats, as was done in 2011. Even after a letter was read at the meeting from one of our state legislators asking that they not raise the taxes, because of the economy’s downward shift, they paid no attention. They again raised our tax rate another 9 mills.
When I called the county tax office I was told, in essence, that 1 mill equals $480,000. With the total of nine times that amount, plus the $70-plus million they already get on an annual basis, just from the Aiken County taxpayers, that did not include all of the “gifts and donations” from huge companies – i.e., Savannah River Site, Bridgestone-Firestone, many private corporations, personal donations, etc. When added to the taxpayer-required “donations,” that’s a grand total of $237 million, so the county offices say!
Where did it go? As a taxpayer of Aiken, I want to know where every penny is spent or used. I don’t see the number of “improvements” they quoted about Aiken High School, one of the places they said was in need of such dire repair.
I COMMEND BOE member Levi Green for his efforts to stand up to the group that is again trying to force another tax increase on Aiken County citizens. As far as I am concerned, the members of the school board need to do the right thing. It is sad to know we have a county school superintendent and assistant superintendents making more than the governor of the state – but like most everything else in this country, people are money-oriented and self-serving. As always, the taxpayers and families are the ones who suffer, especially those of us on fixed incomes.
I would like to see an out-of-state, independent accounting firm audit the books of the Aiken County school system, and the school board does not need to make the decision of who, when and where. Members of the school board who requested the tax increase, for the second year running, need to resign, as well as those state legislators who supported the decision for autonomy for the school board.
That autonomy not only gave them the leverage to increase taxes in Aiken County for the school system when they feel like it, but it also gives them the right to use some of that money to give themselves raises annually. We already are top-heavy in administration; we need fewer chiefs and more rank-and-file employees doing the real work.
The best way to accomplish this is for the citizens to get out and vote in 2012, especially in November. Surely we have people willing to serve on the school board who will use our tax dollars more wisely, without expecting the taxpayers to supply new money every year.
This method/demand of rate increases annually is causing hardship on every taxpayer in our county. I’m not one in favor of allowing this to continue on and on every year.
(The writer is an Aiken, S.C., resident.)