The ‘M’ word

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nobody wants the tax rate in the City of Franklin to go up; not residents, not business owners, and we believe not even City Manager Randy Martin — who crafted the proposed budget that includes a nine percent rate hike.

But the bills have to be paid. And if projected revenue is less than projected expenses, one of two things has to occur; either expenses need to be lowered or revenue must be raised. This proposed budget, to varying degrees, actually proposes to do both.

Is the proposed budget ideal? Perhaps not. But examining the situation from a macro versus a micro level, the proposed tax increase makes one thing perfectly clear: Franklin is in financial trouble, and there are likely few solutions.

Among them are continuing to slash operating budgets, although most agencies are long past the point of trimming fat and are nearing bone. Another is to continue raising tax rates to make up for revenue shortfalls. A third option would be to expand the existing tax base, which would require outside investment from companies willing to relocate and set up shop here. The fourth, and perhaps only other option, would be for Franklin to give up city status and once again become a town in Southampton County.

Want to start a good argument in our neck of the woods? Bring up the “M” word in select company and select phrases like “over my dead body” and “not if I have anything to do with it” are the least contentious — and most quotable in print — you are likely to hear.

Neither Franklin nor Southampton County officials seem particularly enthused to have a discussion about, let alone actually pursuing, the prospect of a merger between the two localities.

But neither one is in the best of financial health. Maybe it’s time they at least had a discussion about it.