Our city council is taking steps to finalize next year’s budget. They have already introduced an ordinance that would allow them to raise their property tax rate by up to 5.29%.
They tell us that ordinance outlines the maximum increase that they might impose. In other words the rate may go down. I tried holding my breath but nearly passed out while writing this post so I decided to breathe through it.
City staff made a presentation at council’s July 28, 2016 that actually recommended some budget reductions from last year. The total of their recommendations was $815,604. That’s a pretty sorry number when you consider that they are looking at a $904 million budget next year. Not being able to improve operational costs by one percent tells us that they are not serious about keeping taxes in line.
The budget discussion included this 75 point listing of “Budget/Informational” requests. Almost all of the items were originated by city representatives. The list included some items that many of us would agree with such as planning regular budget amounts for street maintenance and lighting.
Unfortunately several of the requests from council members asked city staff to look into the feasibility of imposing additional fees in addition to the tax increase. These items caught our eye:
- “… do what is necessary to raise sales tax revenues and decrease property taxes. Do not balance the budget by raising tax rates. It is time to cut them.”
- “Implementation of Soda Tax (3 cents per ounce) to fund projects such as: street paving, pending NMTP projects, expanded prekindergarten, park improvements, and budget shortfalls.”
- “Can we look into a Municipal Development District (MDD) Sales Tax as an alternative source of revenue?”
- “Can we look into implementing a coin operated tax? If so, can we find out what revenue could be generated from $15 per year/machine?”
- “Can we look into a child safety fee as an alternative source of revenue?”
- “Resue [sic] the existing San Jacinto holiday lights at another location in the city.”
Number 1 would take a creative solution. I suppose that council could try to force businesses to increase prices so that there would be more sales tax on each item.
Number 2 would create an accounting nightmare for businesses and the city causing soda prices to increase by more than the 3 cents per ounce and probably causing the city to have to create an entire department of bubble managers. Leaving the financial issues aside the city would also have to deal with our citizenship that generally resists increased government intervention in our lives. The issue of the city getting into the prekindergarten business is another problem with this idea.
Number 3 this city representative clearly does not know that the state puts limits on the percentage of sales tax that the city can charge and that we are already at that limit.
Number 4 has some of the same problems as number 2. We can all probably imagine the legion of vending machine inspectors that the city would end up creating.
Number 5 is simply disingenuous. It seems that the city representative wants to add an additional fee to the cost of renewing our vehicle license plates and then use the money as an “alternative source of revenue” instead of using the money to somehow or other make children more safe.
Number 6 is a classic. We were told the other day that the old holiday lights had deteriorated. Now for only another $50,000 they can salvage some of them and install them somewhere else. Using workable lights sounds like a good idea. It looks like the real problem was the misleading reasons for getting new lights at San Jacinto.
We find it really remarkable that none of the 75 items asked for consideration of a way to reduce spending.
We deserve better