The allocation of sales and property taxes in Lee County has become an ugly point of divisiveness. This issue really needs to be a point of healthy debate. This argument shouldn’t be about those mean old conservative commissioners trying to ‘steal’ tax revenue from the City of Sanford or the Town of Broadway. Nor, is it a plan by them to impose a tax increase on the city and town. Rather, it is a discussion that should be near and dear to the likes of Commissioners Hayes, Pascal, Oldham, and Reives, a discussion of that liberal mantra– FAIRNESS. After all, these four liberal commissioners preach about it all the time. This debate should not just be about the city and town having the funds to pay the bills their elected officials incur; no, it probably should also be about the fundamentally conservative question of who really pays the taxes which pay the bills, and who then benefits from the product of those bills in this country.
The tax distribution schemes in Lee County are a telling example of modern wealth redistribution. Even today, the majority of property taxes are collected from property in the unincorporated parts of the county; this, despite the virtually unchecked and cancerous annexation practices of the City of Sanford. On the other hand, the majority of the Lee County population is within the boundaries of its two incorporated areas, Broadway and Sanford. Historically, collected sales taxes were distributed using the per capita method, or where the most people lived. This method sent more of the sales tax revenues to the City of Sanford and Town of Broadway, even though the county had the option of retaining those revenues at the county level for other worthy purposes.
So, what do we receive in return for giving Sanford an extra $1.3million in sales taxes each year? Sanford charges county residents double the water and sewer rates they charge city residents. Sanford residents get close-in use of its many parks and recreation facilities without additional charge to city residents, even though ALL county taxpayers have to pay for those services in their county property taxes. The county also foots the bill for the library facilities without charge to the city residents who use these facilities much more. Same for the enrichment center and senior services provided there. Is it any wonder that county residents are ready to rebel about having to pay such high taxes only to see their monies re-directed to the benefit of city dwellers? Please tell me what is fair about this kind of wealth redistribution? Logically, with more of the population living within the city limits, there should be more tax money raised within the cities, right?
In historical context, property owners were levied taxes by their respective governments to pay for the community services they requested from the governments they formed. That made sense to everyone, especially as property ownership was a requirement to vote. Interesting concept, the people who paid the taxes were the ones who decided how the taxes would be spent. Wow, how times have changed! (But that’s another argument altogether!) Now at least in Lee County, tax dollars collected out in the county do not directly benefit the very people who have paid them. City police and fire services do not extend into the county neither do city maintenance and road crews. In other words, the people paying the collected taxes no longer have a say in how the money is spent.
So, why is this even a topic of debate? Well the recently completed county audit by Evergreen suggested that the county adopt an ad valorem method of sales tax distribution. In other words use the taxes collected based upon the distribution of property values; the same method used for taxing property. This would shift $1.3million dollars that had been being alocated by the cities to be retained by the county government for budget use, or for tax relief to all county taxpayers.
In this debate between conservatives and liberals, fairness truly has nothing to do with the outcome. Wealth redistribution is a pandemic social, political, and economic issue that is strangling this great nation. Liberal-progressives continue to buy votes from an ever shrinking pool of revenue. What happens when this pool dries up? What happens when there is no more property to tax or to confiscate? The tax burdens across the country, just like in this county, is being born by an ever-shrinking group of payers, for the benefit of an ever-growing and group of users. Maybe more damning is that the beneficiaries, through their politicians, keep demanding more. In the minds of those depending on government for survival, it is unfair to expect the takers to live within their own means. In Lee County, those are not words used very often by liberal progressives, there aren’t any votes in it!