Look who's hoarding now
May 28, 2004
The Greenville County District 20 race better resembles a statewide campaign. Never in my memory has there been so much money and "sophisticated" campaign marketing brought to the table. It isn’t limited to District 20 either, but it is most prominent in that race.
Hayne Hipp has brought county politics to a new level. Whether he has raised it to a new level or lowered it is in the eyes of the beholder. Aided by deep pockets, a sympathetic daily paper and Repubocrats who feel it is their time to control the politics of the County, Mr. Hipp is giving incumbent Scott Case a run for his money – at least it appears that way. June 8th will be the judge.
Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened. If you recall, it was Hayne Hipp who helped get the Alliance for Quality Education up and running. Its initial goal was to rid the Greenville County School Board of those backward conservative members. In that case, they succeeded.
During the current campaign, one of the points Mr. Hipp has sought to make is that the county should not have so much money in the reserve fund. Of course, I don’t think he even calls it a reserve fund – it is a surplus. He gives the impression that there is over $50 million sitting there so that Greenville County Council can go into the bank vault and hug the bags of cash.
The Greenville News aids in this image. Most articles about the race end up sounding like Hayne Hipp press releases. Not only that but the "surplus" is finding its way into other stories. Do you remember the one earlier this week where it was the fault of the County’s reserve fund that parents are going to have to pay fees for their kids to play summer sports? I’m sure the evil council members were maniacally laughing at the children’s plight.
The truth is that $20 million of the fund is already earmarked for a badly needed jail expansion. This has been in the works for several years. The County Council has had the foresight to collect the money in advance so that most of the needed funds will be cash in hand. You may think it is better to borrow than to save. That could be a legitimate debate – but don’t accuse the current council of hoarding taxpayer money.
That leaves $30 million dollars for the County’s reserve fund. This fund exists for the legitimate purpose of helping maintain the County’s bond rating as well as to serve as a rainy day bailing bucket. Again, I won’t fault someone for arguing that the fund should be smaller or that bond ratings are overrated – but don’t accuse the current council of hoarding taxpayer money.
I find it ironic that the very School Board Hayne Hipp helped to elect has its own reserve fund. In today’s The Greenville News the editorial makes a point for using $5.5 million of the fund to help forego a 3 to 4 mil tax increase. The editor writes, "Greenville school trustee William Herlong, particularly, makes a strong case for forgoing a tax increase this year. Millage increases of the past few years have not only allowed the district to maintain strong academic standards but also have helped to build up the district's reserve fund."
So, the tax increases that were needed just to make it through the year have actually yielded a surplus? That surplus has climbed to – well, wouldn’t you know -- $30 million. So, I wonder, does Mr. Hipp think that the School Board is hoarding taxpayer money?
The challenger calls for an immediate tax refund to homeowners. He wants us to borrow the money for future needs when they come. Of course, the bond rating becomes an issue at that point – not to mention the probability of future tax increases. If he wants to go that route, it would be nice if he would call for the same actions from the School Board. Then again, when the School Board builds a reserve fund, it is fiscally responsible. When the County Council does it, it is hoarding.