Monday, April 13, 2009

Should the Amish be made to donate?

The Amish/Mennonite communities here in Todd County have made their annual donation/bribe to Todd County.

In many counties across the state, the communities have donated the money in lieu of taxes for their use of county roads.

The pay this time was $9,022. County Treasurer Tammy Robertson said the payment was a lot more than in the past.

In past years the payment has been an average of $7,500.

Why was it more this year? Who knows?

The whole idea is like a payoff in some mobster movie. We (the Amish) give you money so you don't push the state government for a tax on tractors and buggies that travel the road.

I know Todd County is hard up for money right now, but the fiscal court should give the money back though you can't blame them if they don't.

Also, you can't blame the ones who came up with the idea of "a donation" as a way to keep the peace.

In Todd County the idea of a tractor and buggy tax has never been very popular because of all the farmers who have to run their tractors from farm-to-farm across county and state roads, but the tide is turning in many communities across the state and the Amish/Mennonite communities are trying keep that issue at bay as long as possible.

The only problem is that as Todd County shifts to large farm operations from small family farms, the equipment — for liability reasons — is often hauled by trailer from farm to farm.

Also, Todd County is in the midst of a change that will push more and more of its population away from traditional farming and more toward technical/industrial jobs. That will result in a whole lot less sympathy for tractors going half the speed of cars on roads that are used to transport workers to and from their jobs each day.

Another, almost as troubling, aspect of more and more Amish/Mennonite families moving here is that when communities grow (especially if that growth is rapid) zoning laws and subdivisions can cause tremendous problems for the Amish/Mennonite way of life.

Urban sprawl (basically unchecked growth) could be lethal for farmers and Amish/Mennonites who aren't afforded some sort of agriculture-friendly zoning.

Larger farming operations tend to make their own zoning — at least until the price of land is worth more than the farmer could make farming and they sell out.

With a huge industrial operation, Hemlock Semiconductor, just yards south of the Todd County line we all need to wake up to the possibility that life may soon change here and change fast.

The first victims are often small farmers (which is what most of the Amish and Mennonites who live here are). If you don't think this is a real possibility then look at current land prices. We are in the middle of a huge economic recession, but land prices in Todd County have continued to climb.

Most land in south Todd is more expensive than ever because of speculation of growth. On the flip side, land in north Todd is also around $4,000 to $5,000 an acre because some Amish are paying an inflated price in an area that seems — at least for a generation or so — insulated from rampant growth.

The problem will be when Todd County sees so much growth that it flips from a mostly rural agri-based economy to a technical service economy. Even then the government that will be in place will no longer be comprised of mostly farmers, the government will be similar to Clarksville's which is mostly comprised of business owners and activist citizens.

That type of government will protect the ones who put them in office and not the farmer.

Already the Todd County Fiscal Court has heard numerous complaints about the Amish and Mennonites on roads and the horse droppings that come as part of their transportation.

As one member of the Amish community told me recently, "(The Amish) might have to eventually move out West where there is lots of land and not as many people."

He sighed and told me he liked living here and how this was a great place to raise a family. To the Amish man it would be sad for he or his family to move because of new laws or pressure from land developers.

I told him it would be more than sad, it would be tragic.

Times are changing and it is a shame that those who might suffer most can't change because of their religious beliefs. Also, it seems that the small farmer and his way of life might also be just as much at risk.

The state needs to come up with a sticker/plate system for all of the tractors and buggies that travel on roads. It shouldn't be near as expensive (maybe $15 or $20) as an automobile or truck, but it would be fair and would give the Amish and Mennonite community a clear stake on the roads of Kentucky and Todd County.

After all, even if it is paid on a volunteer basis, the United States has moved past any group having to make a payment for some sort of protection that, ironically, the county wouldn't have control over in the first place.

Also, the sticker/plates would go a long way toward having families who have lived here for several generations to accept that the Amish and Mennonite communities are now part of Todd County and should be accepted as such.

There is no reason for the Amish/Mennonite community to pay a "donation" as long as the law of the land doesn't make them.

There is also no reason for the counties across the state to accept the donations when all that would be necessary are steps to protect those who seek a rural life (farmers included).

And until those laws are put in place there is no reason for the government to accept money that is not theirs and for the Amish/Mennonites to give the money as part of a false hope that the laws won't change.

By Ryan


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No persons or any group of people should think they have to give or donate monies to the county.No person should have to give anymore than they are legally required to give or pay.If they are giving the money on there own because they just want to do it , well that find to do that , but one one should be made to feel they have to give to the county or state more than they are legally required to do by law.

12:45 PM, May 03, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going to buy me a tractor so I do not have to pay taxes.

12:09 PM, June 03, 2009  

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