Some Johnston County commissioners are adamant that property-tax dollars not pay for trash services here. We think they’re missing the big picture.
The commissioners rightly note that not everyone in Johnston uses the county’s solid waste convenience centers, where residents can carry their trash and recyclables. Therefore, they argue, not everyone should pay to operate those money-losing convenience centers, which would be the case if Johnston funded them with tax dollars.
But it’s also true that not all Johnstonians have children in school, and yet the county funds part of its share of Johnston education spending with property-tax dollars. And we’ve heard none of those same county commissioners argue that education in Johnston should be a fee-based service like the convenience centers.
That’s because all of Johnston County benefits from good public schools. Businesses, for example, benefit from an educated workforce. Likewise, childless households benefit when young people get taxpaying jobs instead of welfare handouts.
So would all of Johnston benefit if the county funded its convenience centers with property-tax dollars? We think so. Here’s why: Commissioners could try to stem the red ink at the convenience centers by raising the annual fee that households pay to use them. But at a certain price point, households would stop paying the fee, stop using the convenience centers, and instead dump their trash in the woods or along the roadside.
Instead, commissioners could roll the cost of the convenience centers into the property tax, and because households wouldn’t notice the cost, they would be more likely to make use of the centers. And lest commissioners think that “hiding” the cost of trash disposal is unseemly, who in Johnston knows what percentage of his tax bill goes to the public schools or the sheriff’s office?
We understand that commissioners are sensitive about the property tax rate. But if a service – be it schools or trash disposal – benefits all of Johnston, the property tax is the best way to pay for it.