Do you want to pay Double Taxes?

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I want to keep you aware of something that is very concerning to me and may be one of the biggest problems facing our county.  This is a fairly complicated issue, but the bottom line is this:  The State mandates that the Counties provide certain services (click here for a list).  The People pay for those services through various State taxes (i.e., Sales Tax).  According to the current law (see statutory information here) the State is REQUIRED to send AT LEAST 4.5% of its general fund budget each year back to the Counties to pay for the services.  The law is so restrictive, that it requires the State to, under no circumstance, ever decrease the amount from the previous year.  The ONLY way they can get around this is to make a separate legislation each year for the sole purpose of adjusting that number.  This makes it impossible to just 'hide' it in some legislation so no one can find it.  The problem is that every year since 2009 the State Legislature has done just that - they have just decided to give us what they feel is appropriate without regard to the real costs of their decision.  Bottom line: The law is not being followed and it has now become the norm for our State.

What does that mean for us as taxpayers?  For those of us fortunate enough to live in Spartanburg County it means that over the last 5 years we have been shorted over $20M! That is $20M that you paid in taxes to the State and, since we MUST provide the services, you have also paid it to the County.  You have essentially paid twice for the same services.  Now, instead of upgrading our infrastructure or helping our employees with the costs of living or giving you a tax break, we are having to use all of that money to pay for the services that you have already paid for.  Spartanburg is doing a great job managing our finances and our business.  We have dealt with a budget that has gone from $92M in 2009 to just over $82M this year.  That's a tough leap for anybody but we have dealt with it in a way that would have the smallest impact on the Taxpayers as possible.  We are at the point now that something MUST be done about this Local Government Fund and that's why I need your help!

Take a moment to watch this video of the joint session of your Council and some of the Delegation Members: (HERE)

Look at some of the information here about the History of the Local Government Fund and how we got to where we are: (HERE)

What can you do?  (Glad you asked!)  You can contact your Representative (delegation contact info here) and let them know that you don't want to pay twice! They are very willing to help but they will need to hear from you.  Together, as usual, we can do great things as long as we.....you got it....Stay Informed & Stay Involved!

Thank y'all so much. Don't hesitate to call if I can answer any questions at all.


God Bless!
roger signature

 

New Year - New Opportunities

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It's the beginning of a new year and that means for the next several months your County Council will be focused on next year's budget. This is always an exciting time because it's a time for new ideas and new opportunities to ensure that our priorities are straight and that we are focused on the things government should focus on. It's a great time for all of us, as citizens, to get involved and learn about the process and to speak our minds about the issues that are important to us.

Did you know that last year we made some changes to the way we handle public comments at council meetings? All you have to do now is show up. There is a signup sheet at the door - just put your name down and step up and speak your mind - any topic. So if you ever wanted a chance to speak your mind about your government's policies or spending or a problem in your neighborhood that needs addressing...just come on in and say it.

Of course, the opportunity is also there 24 hours a day for you to speak with your council representative. If you live in Council District 6, there are numerous ways to speak your mind: Phone, email, text, website, facebook, twitter, regular mail, office visit or you could even request a personal visit from me if needed. I'm sure the other council districts have similar avenues of contact. The bottom line is this: This is your home. Your County. Your money. Your Family. Your life. Your Rights. This is a great time to get involved and let your government know where you stand and what is important to you.

Over the next several months, I'll be looking for new opportunities to save money, increase public safety, maintain our roads, improve our efficiency and to serve our customers. It is my hope that we all will join this process to help keep Spartanburg the greatest place on earth to Live, Work and Play. God Bless!

 

 

Look Both Ways Before Crossing : Government Transparency

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Doing things differently than you've done them in the past is difficult for just about everybody. That level of difficulty is greatly magnified any time you try to make changes in how government does things. I read the editorial by the SHJ a while back concerning transparency in our county government and found the editor to have some very valid points. There is no reason that the public should not have access to the public documents that Council members have when we're trying to work through an issue. How can we expect the taxpayers to be informed enough to share their thoughts and concerns if they don't have the information?

 

Since taking office, I have made it a personal priority to post this type of important public information on my website, as well as the videos of all our public meetings. For those who have taken advantage of that, I believe it has been very helpful. Even when a video garners just a handful of views, at least it was available for those who needed it. I understand that other Council members such as Councilman Brown have made the decision to make videos and other information available for their constituents as well.

 

The problem is most people expect to go to a county sponsored website to get this information and unfortunately we have been very lacking in that area. I personally don't know of anyone who is trying to hide or keep things from the public - it's just something we haven't done and changing with the times is difficult. In the tight budget years like we're experiencing it seems easy to ignore these types of projects in light of our more urgent priorities. That's why I was very pleased with our Council last week when they stepped up and joined me in directing our staff to do whatever it takes to get this information online in a timely, user friendly format so that ALL of what we do is out in the public. We understand that "because we've always done it a certain way" is not an excuse and that an informed and involved public is the only way to achieve great representation.

 

Earlier this year, Council highlighted its "Public Comment Period" after years of little use or promotion. This is a section in our General Session meetings that encourages citizens to come before council and speak on any topic they wish - not necessarily those that council is focusing on that day. What a great opportunity for you to speak to our entire council about issues that you feel are important or even share a great idea for creating a more efficient and effective county government! Openness and transparency don't go very far if there is little or no two-way communication so this too is a good step in the right direction.

 

Although we have a long way to go to get where we need to be, there are those on Council that understand the need and the importance of being open, honest and transparent. It's not just a good idea, it's a requirement of our oath to you, the taxpayers. Please feel free to email me with any suggestions you may have to help us serve you more effectively in this area.

Regardless of the participation from us as taxpayers, we should expect, and yes, demand openness and transparency from our governments. I am glad to say that your Council has responded and is making the necessary changes. Now, our job as taxpayers is still the same: Stay Informed and Involved. Having the information available won't change anything - What you do with that information will.

God Bless!

 

 

"We, The People." September Edition

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It's funny to me that the first cool morning of the Fall and the first college football game of the year always seem to coincide. This is definitely my favorite time of year with school starting back (my youngest is now a senior at Byrnes - WOW!), college & high school football kicking off and Deer Season just around the corner. Hard to even think about the big election season coming up, which in my mind is the biggest election we've had since...well, since the last one.

If you follow this newsletter at all, you know that I like to try to fill you in on certain issues that need your attention. At our September Council meeting an ordinance has been proposed that I feel would be detrimental to one of our core principles: Holding our elected officials accountable. Please take time to look at both sides of this issue and let me know your thoughts.

Read more...
 

We, The People. May Edition 2012

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One of the things I've learned over the last four decades or so is to always let a letter that's written in emotion sit for a while before sealing the envelope. I guess we can chalk this article up to one of those times that I didn't learn my lesson. My love for our county, our state and our country is high, which causes some pretty deep emotional reactions when I see us not taking advantage of the greatest democracy ever afforded mankind.

I want to start by saying that the job you have charged me with includes taking care of day-to-day problems you need help solving. It includes keeping you informed about issues and providing you the ability to see and evaluate those issues without spin from me.

Read more...
 
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