Letter: City raising taxes to ‘feed the beast’

City raising taxes to ‘feed the beast’

From: Kristen Brown


City and county officials are feigning fiscal discipline in order to “feed the beast.” In other words, to drastically raise taxes to feed the government’s insatiable appetite for spending our money.

From The Republic, one year ago and Thursday:

On 10-19-16, “City leaders have approved a $54.2 million budget for 2017.”

On 10-05-17, “The proposed 2018 budget at $57.8 million is about $1 million smaller than this year’s (2017’s) budget, representing a decrease of nearly 2 percent, said the city’s finance director.”

Simple math indicates the city is increasing budgeted spending next year by 7 percent, not decreasing it 2 percent.

This year, city officials have spent over $5 million on unplanned, unbudgeted expenditures. They’ve lumped that unbudgeted spending into this year’s budget, misleading us to believe they’re cutting budgeted spending next year when they are significantly increasing it.

If spending were actually declining, why would city officials have already increased our property tax rate next year? And support the county officials’ increase in income taxes next year which primarily benefits the city?

The disinformation coming from county officials to justify their staggering 40 percent increase in our income taxes is even more misleading.

County officials claim the county is in a “financial crisis” resulting in a “bare bones budget.”

They’ve never substantiated these claims with actual data and the claims have proven to be exaggerated misrepresentations.

Like the city, the county does not have a tax revenue problem, elected officials have a spending problem. “Low-hanging fruit” cost reductions include:

Stop giving themselves full-time health care benefits. Council members and commissioners are part-time employees. For every family on the county’s health plan, the average cost to the taxpayer is $26,000 annually.

The county’s single largest expense is salaries/wages. Stop giving 3 percent across-the-board annual raises to all employees and elected officials. Move to a merit/performance based system for employees.

Second largest expense is employees’ health care. Negotiate with the hospital to lower the cost of employees’ health care to taxpayers, currently 2 to 5 times Medicare pricing.

Increase the employees’ share of their health care costs. The taxpayer is paying a disproportionate amount when compared to private employers in our community.

Third largest expense is employees’ retirement benefits. The taxpayer contributes over 14 percent and 24 percent of annual salary/wages for civilian employees and sworn officers, and 3 percent of salary/wages is the employee’s responsibility but the taxpayer pays for all.

Centralize purchasing, require competitive proposals from service providers.

Stop unnecessary overnight travel.

End personal use of government vehicles except for law enforcement.

Our elected officials are redefining reality, misleading us to believe they are exercising fiscal discipline, only to impose their will of increasing taxes.

That’s because the more they squeeze from us, the more they can grease the proverbial “squeaky wheel” — the powerful voting blocs who cash the checks from government, including the government employees, vendors and contractors.

Our officials know they’re elected to serve “we, the people” — the hard-working taxpayers who silently write the checks to government — but staying in power comes more easily by simply “feeding the beast.”