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Jeff Whitten: No, taxes aren’t meant to be fun
editor's notes

Note: This is the first installment in a 200-part series on taxes that might go on until the cows finally come home. Or, as Bryan County Commission Chairman Carter Infinger is apt to say when he gets excited, “that’s right, that’s right.”

That’s right. Anyway, every year around this time the millage rate headaches start and questions abound. Questions like which government is going to take a rollback millage rate and which won’t. In recent years, Bryan County has taken the rollback rate, the other taxing authorities in this county haven’t because otherwise they would run out of money and have to resort to something drastic.

But that’s a column for another day. For me millage rates are akin to college algebra – a subject so horribly unfathomable it made my head hurt every time I even looked at the text book cover, and I’d been in the Army. Anyway, I wound up dropping it about two weeks into the course for everybody’s sanity, and later signed up for something designed for journalists called earth algebra.

Predictably, I nearly flunked that class when my formula to predict how many games a former Georgia Southern football coach named Tim Stowers would lose if he kept not winning at his present rate had him not winning about 100 in a single regular season. Luckily, my professor was tired of my whining about that particular football coach and passed me with a D.

Still, and this despite my obvious lack of qualification to do something that has anything to do with numbers and decimal points and percentages, I’m going to try and explain how property taxes can go up and local government officials look taxpayers right in their beady little taxpaying eyes and say it’s not a tax hike. I’ll call it millage rates by a dummy for dummies.

But that’s on the demand side. Let’s talk for a second about the supply side, which is also sort of the demand side, though I’ll get back to that later.

First, let’s face it. If we didn’t knuckle down and work to pay taxes a whole lot of people would be out of jobs. There’s around 1,500 men, women and children in this county who work for Bryan County Schools, and some of them – not all, but some – make a good chunk of change. There’s also probably somewhere around 1,000 or so who work for other local governments, and thousands of others on the state or federal payroll in one way, shape or form in just this county all by itself. It amounts to probably a billion dollars or something in salaries alone, and then you’ve got cars and buses and buildings and radios and phones and computers and property and experts and expense accounts and per diem and consultants and all sorts of other things, all necessary to try and ensure residents don’t get the short end of any sticks.

Guess who pays for that? Yep. Taxpayers. And since we all know that those who can’t do something teach it or get into government and try to regulate it, we know that without taxpayers ponying up taxes every year they’d probably be out there at the Highway 204 exit on I-95, trying to look pitiful in their suits so you’ll hand over a buck to help them fill up their SUVs parked over in a nearby ride share.

Naturally, those who get paid by tax dollars pay taxes too, so you can’t really hold it against them for wanting to get paid for the pleasure of serving you, even if you wanted to. And let’s face it, there are some tax-funded government services which are important.

Law enforcement, for example. I go through police reports on a regular basis and trust me, you do not want some of these folks out there with nothing between them and you but air. There’s mean, there’s stupid and then there’s both, and there’s plenty of all three hereabouts these days.

And, first responders also perform an invaluable and underappreciated service, given the propensity people have for setting fires or driving like idiots or getting run into by people who drive like idiots, and it’s only going to get worse as this part of Georgia keeps booming.

Oh, and here’s a good opportunity to dispel the myth that growth lowers taxes.

Nope. Growth requires more government, which means more taxes. You can only hope at some point things level out to a point where you can retire and have a few years to enjoy life before you get so disgruntled and old and creaky parts start falling off or quit working and you have to move into a smelly old granny ranch so you don’t wander off on a tangent.

Which is where I’m headed in a couple of years myself.

Up next: Why 55 should be mandatory retirement age and the age we stop paying taxes and demand young people get off our lawns and get jobs instead.

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