Time to pay the piper. Real estate and personal property taxes are due today in Floyd County and elsewhere across Virginia. Your local government wants your money and they want more and more each year.

Compared to most other counties and municipalities in Virginia, Floyd Countians enjoy a low tax rate. We paid more real estate taxes in the last six months we lived in Arlington County than we have paid in three years in Floyd. We pay more taxes on 103 acres of undeveloped land in Carroll County than on our home and property in Floyd County.

But that still doesn’t ease the pain of payment twice a year when checks must be written and mailed by the deadline to avoid stiff penalties.

Floyd County’s real estate taxes increased twice in the last three years and will most likely go up again next year. County government is, for all practical purposes, broke and living from paycheck to paycheck (and those paychecks come only twice a year — on tax days).

Faced with increasing gas prices and debt service on school construction that seemed like a good idea at the time, the county struggles to pay its bills and looks for new revenue sources. Twice it has asked the state legislature for authority to levy additional sales taxes and even a county income tax. Twice the state has turned the county down. This year they will rephrase the requests but the bottom line is the same: the county wants to find new ways to tax its citizens.

Costs will continue to rise: the volunteer rescue squad must now pay for daytime coverage and a shortage of volunteers may force them to go to a paid operation around the clock. The volunteer fire department’s days may also be numbered.

Salaries for county deputies barely meet poverty guidelines. A customer service representative for EchoStar in Christianburg makes more from day one.  The county lost two deputies to higher-paying jobs with other departments in the last year.

Our elected officials must share some of the blame. County Supervisors will spend hours pouring over monthly expenditures, questioning the purchase of a set of tires for a patrol car and then pass a program costing thousands, or even millions, with little discussion or debate. Too much county business is still discussed behind closed doors, taking advantage of Virginia’s lax, and vague, Open Meetings Act.

Voters showed their displeasure earlier this year by ousting two incumbent Supervisors in the Republican primary caucus. But the problem cannot be solved just by voting every four years. Few citizens ever show up for the Supervisors’ monthly meetings.  In the last year, I’ve attended four public hearings where no other county residents appeared to either comment or observe.

As long as such public apathy exists, county residents have little reason to gripe — even though the complaints may be justified.

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