Friday, November 21, 2008

UL spanks Concord ...

... in an editorial today: ["Concord's claim: We can't control spending!"]. I too am disappointed in not only our city leaders but its legal "representation." This kind of obstructionist nonsense is annoying and outrageous. What are they so afraid of? Let the voters decide already.
And, there are things the city can cut. There are the three new employees who were hired at the cable media access center less than two years ago. There is one of the existing full-time employees who currently has two other jobs, meaning she probably isn't putting in a full-time week even though she is getting a full-time salary, benefits, and a retirement bonus. There is the silly van they bought. What a waste of thousands and thousands of dollars. There are city departments that are overstaffed when compared to comparable staffing in other communities. There are the TIF giveaways that are costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. Like the one for the parking garage ... which stands vacant. The fact that city officials say they can't live with 4 percent tax increases is incorrigible. Come on. It's not that hard.
Start with zero-based budgeting and work your way up to what you have. You can get to within a 4 percent increase. The problem is that they refuse to make the hard choices.

7 comments:

MARK COEN said...

TONY,
I FEEL THAT THE WORDING IS NOT CORRECT. SURE, THE CITY CAN CONTROL ITS OWN SPENDING, BUT IT DOES NOT CONTROL THE STATE ED, COUNTY, AND SCHOOL BUDGETS WHICH MAKE UP OVER 66% OF THE PROPERTY TAX BILL. THE QUESTION IS IF THE CITY COMES IN AT A CPI RATE BUT THE OTHERS ARE OVER THAT AMOUNT, DOES THE CITY THEN HAVE TO REDUCE ITS BUDGET TO MEET THE TARGET.
EXAMPLE WOULD BE THE CITY RATE IS AT 4%; SCHOOL AT 5%, COUNTY 10%, AND STATE 4%. THE CURRENT RATE ON A HOME ASSESED AT $250,000 WOULD PAY A TOTAL OF $5,122 TODAY. IF THE TAX CAP WAS IN PLACE YOU WOULD THINK THAT THE RATE WOULD THEN BE $5,326 (4%) BUT WOULD BE $5,388 OR $62 OVER THE TAX CAP.5% NOT 4%.

Tony said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting. But, as I have said before, I fail to see where the issue or the concern is. The wording of the question specifically states that the city's budget and tax rate should be based on the CPI. It says nothing about the school, the county, or the state. Just the city. The county, schools, and state can charge whatever they want. Since the effective tax rate is line itemed on the property tax bills, it is pretty easy to follow. The question seeks to control the city tax rate and spending - no other. City councilors, surprisingly, seem to be the only ones confused by all of this. Why is this?

Tony

Anonymous said...

TONY... THE PEOPLE THAT I HAVE TALKED TO OVER THE PAST MONTHS DID NOT KNOW THAT THIS DOES NOT CAP THEIR TOTAL PROPERTY TAX BILL. PLEASE ASK 4 PEOPLE AND IF THEY UNDERSTAND WHAT THE CAP MEANS TOWARDS THE TOTAL TAX RATE.

THANKS AGAIN,
MARK COEN

Anonymous said...

Why cap council spending when school board gets the lion's share of our tax dollar. Do you really think capping what the council's budget is will lower your taxes.

Tony said...

Hi Anon814, thanks for reading. I can only comment from my personal point of view.

I'm not really looking at it from a "lowering taxes" perspective as much as a "containing costs" perspective. Capping the tax rate for what the city side of the budget collects won't lower taxes. It will contain spending though. And that is what this group has put on the ballot. They didn't put a ballot question reining in every entity's tax cap - just the city's.

Quickly, to remake some of the arguments I have previously made, the simple fact is that a 5.6 percent increase, that happened last year, after the city manager floated what, 12 percent?, is not sustainable. Most of us have seen our wages freeze - if not cut. Some of us who have small businesses have lost a good chunk of our business during the last two years. There is belt-tightening everywhere [if you haven't noticed]. Every single person I know in this community is working under the same conditions.

There is an old adage used by progressives: The government is us. We are the government ... This adage is used to make the case that there should be more government spending for services. But if that adage can be used for the positive, it can be used for the negative. The government is us ... we are the government ... and that means that the government has to learn to adapt to live under the same conditions as the taxpayer. Currently, the majority of taxpayers have no new money and are belt-tightening and cutting costs to live with the lower amounts of income. So governments need to do the same thing.

In addition, I fail to see how the city can't live with 4 percent. Why is that so hard? What if everyone here lost their jobs? What would you do then? I mean, the city isn't even trying to live within the 4 percent ... it's just complaining, crying, or attacking the initiative legally.

Tax caps, dare I say it, work in Massachusetts and they work quite well. There is a 2.5 increase with a levy limit increase of 2.5 percent. It encourages fiscal responsibility and new growth - since the new growth can be taxed at a higher rate. It can be use as a positive tool to control city spending, negotiate with unions, and keep wild-eyed proposals like the new library boondoggle [or the parking garage no one uses, that unfortunately was built] in check.

In closing I will say this: True leaders need to learn to adapt to change and provide the best services possible under current market conditions. Leaders don't send their attorneys out to question, challenge, and sue. It just makes everyone look bad. I don't know if Paul Cavanaugh is doing this on his own or at the direction of the city manager, mayor or council. But it is clear to me from this decision and others I have seen over the years, that the city would be better served with different legal counsel.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the City let this go to the citizens to decide? The petition has been ruled legit. Now put it on the next ballot. Let everyone weigh in on the issue in the meantime, pro and con. Then let the voters decide. By its repeated attempts to keep this off the ballot the City is showing its contempt for the voters and the democratic process. (Unfortunately it's not the first time the City has ignored a petition from its citizens.)

Tony said...

I know Anon6:18, that is so darn true!!