Goals change, priorities evolve, and that seems to be what is happening with the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
A year ago, during its annual board retreat, the board stated its goal was to reduce the tax rate in Mount Airy by 10 cents over the coming years. That board took a big step toward reaching that goal by slashing 2 cents from the city’s tax rate in the present budget, to 58 cents per $100 of assessed value.
However, at the retreat this year the board members said that while they would like to continue cutting the tax rate, their top priority was to maintain city services at present levels. We hope some additional tax cuts will be possible while maintaining services, but somewhere along the way these two goals will be inconsistent with one another.
And that time may have arrived.
The commissioners are expected to receive City Manager Barbara Jones’ budget proposal today, and in comments leading up to the meeting several of them expressed pessimism they could continue to cut tax rates and maintain services at present levels. And every one of them said if forced to choose, maintaining services would remain their top priority.
This illustrates the changing nature of politics and funding. The only difference in the make-up of this year’s board two seats, with Shirley Brinkley defeating Todd Harris in the November election and Scott Graham winning the seat left open by Teresa Lewis. Yet both years the board seemed fairly united in their stated goals.
So why the difference?
It would be interesting to hear each board member explain why their goals have changed, although we suspect it’s simply a matter of more time passing as they reflect on the city needs verses its resources, getting comments from the city residents they represent, and thinking more about what they believe is most important.
It would also be interesting to see where the majority of city residents land on this issue. This board has demonstrated many times in recent years it is responsive to community input, and we hope those who live in Mount Airy will make their voices heard during any public hearings or forums the commissioners might hold.