A few days before the primary, one of the candidates for the Supervisor of Elections in my rural county stopped by my home to ask for my vote. She was very personable and knowledgeable about the job she wanted, and we chatted for awhile.
During the course of the conversation, she told me that the position she was canvassing for pays $83,000 per year. This is in a county of approximately 41,000 people, where the median income for a family is $36,000, the poverty level is over 21%, and a local food bank fed more than 2,000 people in the county last month. According to the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, state law sets the base salary for Supervisor of Elections, in a county with a population of fewer than 49,000 people, at just over $17,000.
Recently, thenewscaster.com advised its readers that the Clerk of Courts, the Property Appraiser, the Tax Collector, the Superintendent of Schools, and the Sheriff of our rural county all earn slightly over $100,000 per year. The state-set base salaries of the first four are $21,250, and the Sheriff’s is $23,350. The governor of the entire state only earns about $130,000.
Working for the government used to be all about public service. Now it seems that it’s turned into “Public, serve us.”
We are fed two contradictory concepts. One is that we are simply not spending enough money on name-the-project-of-the-week. The second is that we must rid the government of waste, make it more efficient, and everything will be fine. The image that we are supposed to call to mind is some nameless bureaucrat, sitting in a backroom, making paper airplanes all day. Or the GSA videos, of people laughing out loud while going on spending sprees with taxpayer money.
The day-to-day salaries of elected officials are never discussed. And here’s another statistic that ought to boggle your mind. At the same time that people are clamoring for money to be spent on education, the average spent every year per student is currently over $10,500! How much more do we need to spend to teach our children to read and write?
While we are getting all exercised about who will be our President and Vice-President, we are not paying attention to what is going on in our own backyard. It’s true that the policies that federal officials carry out do impact our lives, but we need to be involved at the local level as well.
And, apparently, the state level. In this time of high unemployment and economic need, my state’s legislature has chosen to assist those who supplement their income by selling items at a flea market by introducing a new requirement that they register as dealers and collect sales tax and remit it to the state. They also must undergo a background investigation. If you decide that you don’t want to go through all that bother just to get rid of that old washing machine, but you simply want to have a yard sale instead, you must now get a permit for the impact your event will have on your neighbors. Not that the neighbors will ever see a penny of the fee.
Almost 22% of the population of my county work for the government. And looking at the available salaries, I can certainly understand why. The problem is that, according to one County Commissioner, “an estimated 55% of all residences in [the] county pay less than $200 for annual ad valorem taxes”.
Information is the first step to change. Everyone, everywhere, needs to learn the facts about where our tax money goes, before we can make any decisions about any changes that may need to be made. The problem is that finding out such information is difficult. Even most so-called reporters have given up on that task. It is so much easier to listen to the rants of the politicians, the super pacs, the media, and vote emotionally rather than logically. But that sort of action abdicates responsibility.