Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cut taxes? Nah, Dallas County commissioners raise their pay - Dallas Morning News (blog)

If you ever wonder why some super-unreasonable right-wing nuts fight so hard against any tax-rate increase â€" no matter how super-worthy or super-needy the stated reason â€" Dallas County commissioners told you today.

Property valuations fluctuate, falling in a down economy and rising when things look better. Year over year, they are never the same.

Tax rates, on the other hand, only go up. The best a taxpayer can hope is for the same rate as last year; that number will not go down.

Because property valuations are on the rise in Dallas County, commissioners found themselves with a $5.4 million budget surplus. That means far less budget angst than in past years and apparently a little left over.

What to do with it? Return it to the people who paid it? Not in your lifetime.

Commissioners voted unanimously to give county employees a maximum 4 percent raise â€" their first in four years. After the tough cut-cut-cut budgets of this recession and so-called recovery, I have no problem with working stiffs getting a pay bump. “Doing more with less” isn’t just in the private sector. In Dallas County, jobs have gone away and the remaining workers asked to live on flat paychecks and pay more for their health care.

What seems unfair to taxpayers is when county commissioners â€" the same people in charge of setting the tax rate â€" also vote themselves (and every other elected official) that 4 percent pay increase. If you’re scoring along at home, a commissioner’s annual salary jumps from $126,454 to $131,512, if my math is right. County Judge Clay Jenkins had the good instincts to vote against this increase â€" and lost, 4-1 â€" so his annual pay rises from $153,431 to $159,568.

This comes less than two years after this same Commissioners Court voted for a 6.6 increase to the county’s property tax rate.

In truth, the elected officials’ salary increase is a small amount, relative to the possible 4 percent increases for other county workers. If we agree that those county workers â€" prosecutors, sheriff’s deputies, jail guards and the like â€" deserve a bump after four years without, what would you have the commissioners do?

If the county is suddenly swimming in extra cash, would it be so tragic to return just a little to taxpayers with even a small, symbolic rate reduction? And do that before you raise your own salary?

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