STEPHEN CURTIS

Stephen Curtis

Shenandoah County has a newly elected Board of Supervisors that now can choose to promote growth and prosperity through fiscal constraint. Nationally, we have seen renewed vigor in our state and local economies fueled by conservative principles of lifting tax and regulatory burdens on business and families. One indicator of our present economic success is the very low unemployment rate and high labor participation rate in the area.

Because of this underlying prosperity, it will be easy for this new board to raise taxes. I urge them not to do so.

The recent vote against the meals tax should be viewed as a signal from the taxpayers that we do not want any new taxes. We don’t want a meals tax and we don’t want an increase in our property taxes. We want government to restrain itself and cease the seemingly endless promotion of new, costly government initiatives.

Instead, this board needs to attack the two major problems that face our county’s fiscal health: one, how to provide essential services at an affordable price including the education for our children;  two, how to stimulate real economic development.

Since 2011 school spending has increased at 3 1/2 times the rate of inflation yet educational performance remains flat. General county government is increasing equally fast. The government thinks it has deep pockets, yet people do not.

The government cannot be the main growth industry of this county. If uncontrolled spending continues, we soon will become ever more dependent on outside state and federal funding, and we will lose our independence as a fiscally viable community.

Second, we have lost and are losing many of our businesses. The most recent example is the loss of two car dealerships – a loss that went with little notice by the previous county leaders and this newspaper. For the first time in the county's history, you cannot buy a new Ford or Chevy from a local dealer. Our supervisors need to understand what role government played in the demise of these businesses and how to get a dealership or two back.

The government often talks about tax breaks for new business. Isn’t it time to give the residents a tax break as a means of stimulating the economy? For example, it is time to take a close look at the way we tax automobiles and business inventory. Our current vehicle property tax discourages the purchase of newer vehicles, including automobiles and recreational vehicles. It is time to cut these taxes so that people will be more inclined to trade up. Imagine if many of us traded our old vehicles – the economic benefit would be substantial. It would naturally generate more sales taxes and property tax as well as stimulate general economic health without raising the underlying tax rate.

Our Board of Supervisors must exercise fiscal constraint and better judgment than in the past.

Dr. Stephen Curtis, of Edinburg, is a retired veterinarian who has worked in private and public practice. He also served 22 years in the U.S. Air Force Reserve as a public health officer for which he holds the rank of lieutenant colonel.