Winder citizens and businesses dodged a bullet Tuesday night when the city council refused to go along with borrowing $5 million for new city facilities. Still to be decided is whether or not the city will impose a massive new storm water tax on homeowners and businesses.
All of this comes after Winder Mayor Chip Thompson pressed hard for the loan and for the new tax. For now, the storm water tax plan has been put into a study committee that will hopefully look at the details and allow public input.
Thompson’s spending plans are not a good idea. To borrow money for new city buildings and to impose a new tax on the town in the middle of a recession would be akin to putting a “For Sale” sign on the city. It would kill local businesses at a time many are just barely hanging on.
The mayor has already forced through a large utility hike on city residents and businesses; just how much more does he want?
The underlying problem here is that Thompson has no real understanding of what he’s doing. A career government employee, the mayor apparently thinks money grows on trees.
A memo Thompson put out last Friday clearly shows he doesn’t understand government finance. In the memo, Thompson said that as the city pays off several loans in the coming years, it will “save” money that could then be spent on his proposed loan.
But only a government bureaucrat would consider loan payoffs as “saving money.” That’s the taxpayers’ money, Mr. Mayor. Why not give it back to them rather than search for new ways to spend?
Even more disturbing is the mayor’s tendency to mislead the city council over these issues and to strong-arm council members. He told the council Monday night the storm water tax had to be decided by Aug. 15 to meet a county deadline. But a simple phone call from this newspaper to the county discovered that the deadline was wrong.
In recent months, the mayor has acted in an increasingly autocratic manner by dodging the state’s open meetings laws and attempting to run roughshod over the city council.
If he continues in this vein, the mayor will cause the ruination of Winder by making it a town burdened with high taxes, high utility fees and a decidedly anti-business atmosphere.