Thursday, July 19, 2012

Turn the lights off on you way out!

When any small rural county, less than 10,000 population, and more especially less than 5,000 population, start seeing a drop in its city and county population, it also tends to loose a very large majority of total county tax base dollars. Normally those tax base dollars are tied to the industry within any county. Population and Tax base seem to always be tied together. These tax dollars are what keeps vital services operational inside any city or county. Critical vital services at the top of that list for rural counties which are directly tied to the county tax base, are the county healthcare, the local hospital and often including the local rest home, and the public school system. This tax base for any county is very important for a rural county’s survival.

Why? More often than not, when you see people moving out of a small community, its not because they want to, they are more or less forced to because of the lack of jobs. A County has to sustain a good job base to keep residents. It must maintain and sustain Industry. More often than not, Industry is the largest job base and tax base within the county. And its very important for any county to remember the rules of economics applied. You have to have industry come first, not retail. If you create industry first, retail stores will always follow. Industry will not follow retail. 

The one single source regarding loss of population for rural cities and counties is "jobs", or lack of jobs and industry. When a county starts loosing jobs, that normally means that the jobs, businesses that were once there, have abandoned the community, leaving a void of both jobs and the tax base which they once where supporting or paying to the local authorities to keep vital services in place. First you see small stores board up the storefronts. Usually mom & pop, local owner stores and services. Next you see the local healthcare system(s) suffer and needing new additional county tax dollars to stay open, or loose their local hospital, or doctor. And last be not least is your public school system. 

When most local citizens finally start to notice and pay attention to the problem at hand, just now realizing what is happening, "what I call connect the dots", is when their local school goes from 11-man football down to a 6-man football team. Then most local citizens finally notice all to well, the slow and steady decline that has been going on for years but has just now registered on them. Where did all our students go? What happened to all our local owned stores? Why is our local tax rate rising higher and higher each year? Why is our town, community, and public schools loosing all our young people?

For most Georgia counties such as Macon, Hancock, Telfair, Randolph, Dooly, Taylor, Clay, Calhoun County, the loss of population is the greatest in the age range from 24 to 42 years of age. That's why most rural community public schools all across Georgia are getting smaller and smaller each year in student population. Because these are the age ranges of the younger population, couples with children, needing full-time jobs and a good paycheck. Without the industry your county will lose jobs. As each job goes, normally that means the industry left first, then the job followed.

So not only did the county loose it's younger population it also just lost the industry or tax base that helped support most vital services inside the county. Which also lead to the family moving, which in turn had a house, paid taxes on it, a family that bought local goods and supplies, the county now is having a domino effect with the repeat of loss in jobs, tax base, loss of tax on the business, loss on the family home when the couple moved, loss of health care, loss of students, and loss of many other community wide issues. Now that same tax base loss has to be made up from the fewer local citizens remaining within the community or county, either through higher taxes, higher property valuations, or both.

Typically what a declining county does gain, is now most of its citizens left behind are over 62 years of age. Communities of retired individuals and couples. Many rural counties show a higher countywide age range than that. With a county population only taking a rise in older citizens, one could only ask yourself this? If the average citizen is over 60 years of age, and there are no new jobs to support our city/county which will retain or bring in younger residents, where will our county be in 10 years, or 15 years from now? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out, if you as a county citizen, or county leader, set there and do nothing to help find new jobs and bring industry into your community now, in 10-20 more years, your town and community will be a ghost town. With no changes in regard to gaining new industry, you may end up being the last one left. As the old saying goes, "Turn the lights off on you way out!"

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