I write with deep concern about the staggering rise in debt in Clarendon County. The tremendous rise from $4,649,650 in 2008/09 (Sections 1.1) to a daunting $14,744,000 in the 2023/24 budget (sections 6.1 and 6.2) represents an alarming 217.18% increase in debt. In FY 2023/2024 we will have paid $318,374 in interest alone! This massive increase should ring alarms for every resident of our community.
Let's be open & honest: a debt increase of this inflated amount is disproportionate for a county of our population. (31,144 people per 2020 US Census) It's not just a financial issue; it's a reflection on lack of fiscal responsibility that impacts us all. As citizens of Clarendon, we must be aware and engaged in this financial disaster because it directly affects our livelihoods and the ability of our future generations to live good lives.
In these uncertain times, the notion of borrowing money that a local government doesn't possess is a dangerous path. Economic unpredictability magnifies the risks associated with the tremendous debt we are accumulating. When a government borrows extensively, especially beyond its means, it's like an individual maxing out credit cards without the means to repay.
The unpredictability of the future demands prudent financial management. Borrowing money to finance immediate needs might seem like a quick fix, but it comes with long-term repercussions. It amplifies the vulnerability of a community during economic downturns, limiting flexibility and constraining options when unforeseen challenges arise.
Moreover, relying heavily on borrowed funds for ongoing expenses can create a serious cycle of perpetual debt, leading to increased interest payments and reduced ability to provide essential services. It jeopardizes the ability to invest in crucial community development initiatives, infrastructure improvements, and emergency preparedness.
Debt, whether on an individual or governmental level, is a cause for serious concern. It's not just a financial problem, but a burden that affects the quality of life for everyone. The idea that debt is a benign necessity for local governance is a misconception.
The principles of responsible stewardship, even referenced in the Bible, emphasizes the importance of managing money wisely. We are entrusted with the well-being of our community's financial health, and this substantial debt is a stark indication that such stewardship has been neglected.
This isn't a matter of partisan politics; it's about ensuring that those in power exercise fiscal responsibility in financial matters. The ballooning debt underscores the urgent need for a transformative shift in leadership. As we approach the 2024 elections, it's crucial for us to scrutinize and elect officials who prioritize fiscal responsibility over unchecked spending.
Two Council Members are due for election in 2024, offering us an opportunity to steer Clarendon County in a new direction. It's time for a political revolution – one where responsible spending and reduced taxes are not just promises but tangible outcomes. We do not need two more “yes men” on County Council. That we have plenty of! Vote for people who will ask hard questions and demand correct answers.
Let's make an informed choice and vote for leaders who prioritize fiscal conservatism and responsible governance. Our county's financial future depends on it.
(Mrs.) Terrey Streath