I hope this Letter to the Editor will begin an informed and adult conversation about our county’s current financial situation and how to improve it. Until I heard at a recent Budgetary Committee meeting that our county’s finances were so dire that in order to remain solvent there might be the need to eliminate county jobs, I assumed our money situation was okay in Johnson County. I thought money was tight at the very worst, but manageable. If your household has ever run short in meeting monthly bills, you know it has a sobering effect. You are forced into making hard decisions and establishing new priorities. Luxuries and comforts take a backseat to dealing with reality. Here are just a few ideas that may help out our situation. I ask that you consider them and submit your own to your district’s commissioners and in the form of a Letter to the Editor.
1) Request our state representatives stop the mandate that elected officials receive a yearly pay raise. For the second year in a row, our state has required elected county employees receive a pay increase funded by Johnson County land owners. Last year’s rise in property taxes were enforced to cover this expense. It should be noted that our County Executive tried to block this and asked Nashville if county employees could benefit from this law but was told “it was too much paperwork.” We, the taxpayer, need to voice our disapproval of this policy to Representative Timothy Hill and Senator Jon Lundberg. Check here for their contact info to send them a polite, but firm, letter and phone call: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators/.
2) There is one industry that is a proven money-maker no matter where in America one lives: Tourism. We forget sometimes how great we have it here in Johnson County. Our natural resources offer what many counties do not. We have beautiful mountains and clean air and rivers. People travel hours to enjoy fishing, boating, hunting, 4 wheeling and hiking opportunities in what we call home. I urge everyone to participate in and support businesses and groups that work hard to accommodate tourism, whether that be eating at local restaurants, starting up a neighborhood road cleanup or taking advantage of our many wonderful trail systems.
3) Allow sales of alcohol on Sundays and liquor-by-the-drink in restaurants. The economic justification for this is abundantly clear. The objections for this idea have historically been voiced from constituents who believe that sales of beer and wine is equated with a disintegration of our moral character as a county. We should all realize that people, locals and tourists alike, who enjoy wine with their dinner or a cold beer with pizza will end up giving their money to an adjoining county that allows it. All counties surrounding Johnson County, by the by, allow this. We are losing large amounts of revenue due to a notion from citizens that, for the most part, voice opinions of institutions that enjoy a tax exemption status and therefore contribute nothing to the county’s budget.
Encourage our elected officials to be responsible in weighing all options in creating revenue. Taxation on property ownership and the Wheel Tax alone will not save our county. Let the discussion continue.