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WE READ Hap Connors' defense of higher taxes ["Those dreaded taxes: A means to a necessary end," Viewpoints, May 22] more with sadness than with outrage. In his attempt to justify his long and nearly unbroken record of voting for tax hikes he discussed a "vision" for the county. His vision, however, was blurred by two things: a refusal to consider anything that happens outside the public sector, and a number of factual mistakes.
While Connors was eloquent in discussing the various government services Spotsylvania County currently receives, he seems to have given no thought to the consequences of the high price we pay for them.
Since the Great Recession began in 2008, the Democrat-endorsed majority on the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors has raised our taxes five times. Among other things, this nearly doubled property taxes for commercial property owners and raised taxes on homeowners more than 17 percent. This comes, of course, as property values in the county decreased, most often dramatically.
These tax increases brought our local economy a much darker vision than Hap seems to notice: empty homes and factories (our foreclosure rate over the last three years is the highest in the commonwealth, and our commercial vacancy rate is among the highest, by far the highest in our region).
We have nearly the highest taxes on businesses in Central Virginia, and the lowest weekly wages in our region, hardly a coincidence. The number of unemployed has stayed stubbornly stuck at 3,500 for more than three years during this time. The property tax increases alone cost more than $1.2 billion in lost property values (as if the housing bubble bursting wasn't bad enough).
It takes more than flowery words and references to Scripture to create a viable, prosperous, and family-friendly county. It also takes a vibrant economy and a healthy business environment--neither of which seemed to be part of Connors' vision. Then again, after reviewing some of Connors' "facts," it may just be that he needs new glasses.
Contrary to his assertion, Spotsylvania is the 15th largest jurisdiction, not the eighth. Perhaps he meant to say we are the eighth largest county in the state, which we are. Trouble is, if you look at the top ten counties, you'll find Hanover and Albemarle have lower property tax rates than we have. Moreover, two of the counties above us (Arlington and Henrico) take complete responsibility for their local roads, as do all cities. So it really shouldn't surprise anyone that they have higher property tax rates.
Connors' vision problems extend well beyond Virginia. Contrary to what he believes, Congress has dramatically raised spending in recent years, and while Richmond has cut recently, it has reduced spending only to levels last seen in 2006 (which was a record high at the time).
Even locally, Connors' eye fails him. Consider this year's budget, which had excess reserves of well over $6 million. Rather than reverse last year's tax increase (and give the county its first property tax cut since 1975), Connors put the money to his aforementioned "vision," including the vital post of community development director? That he and his fellow Democratic endorsees would create this position out of thin air (while, keep in mind, the economic development director post remains unfilled), is a small but telling example of his "vision" and its disconnect with reality.
Connors would like Spotsylvania to believe the choices are these: a gold-plated local government funded by a bleeding economy or a Hobbesian state of nature. He and his allies on the board have never seemed to understand, let alone address, the growing number of critics who question why core services continue to go up in price at a rate far faster than inflation and population, while overcharges are spent to create unnecessary government jobs out of thin air.
This November, the voters of Spotsylvania should ask themselves if they need new pairs of eyes on the Board of Supervisors.
Steve Thomas is the chairman of the Spotsylvania Republican Committee and D.J. McGuire is the chairman of the Lee Hill District Republicans.