By Scott Unger • Of the News-Register • 

City reaches decision time on property tax rate

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Comments

Don Dix

From the article -- "In a staff report on the issue, Finance Director Jennifer Cuellar made the case for implementing the $1.50 and returning to a $5.02 per $1,000 assessed value rate, arguing the city needs the approximately $5 million in annual funding to cover expenses, make improvements and build reserves."

That leads to a simple question -- When the city was responsible for funding the fire dept. (last year), where was the money for expenses, improvements, and reserves found? That $5M wasn't available for such then, but now it's critical? The public deserves a truthful answer rather than this deceptive, lame, nonsensical explanation!

CubFan

Don, you are spot on! How can we pull the curtain back on the "Wizard of Oz" (city council + mayor)? Now, just watch them fritter away these funds they say are so critical to maintain city government on some of their pet projects that they've wanted all along. I'm just astounded.

scooter

Next fiscal year's budget will be presented this coming May. The public will be given the opportunity to participate. I can only assume the city would welcome all cost savings ideas that would allow for all of our city services to be maintained at an adequate level.

The fact is that the city has been operating at a deficit for years. ARPA funds helped alleviate some of those issues while the rest of the deficit was handled through decreasing city services, delayed maintenance and by our very own city employees taking many days of unpaid furlough. That is not a recipe for longterm stability.

We have had many of our firefighters and police officers leaving our ranks for cities and districts that understand the necessity to invest in their communities. The creation of the fire district was necessary for the longterm safety of our community.

Again the Budget will be available and will be presented by the staff and each of the departments. Those departments will line out what they will be capable of doing with that budget as well as where there will still be needs. That will be the time for all of your cost saving ideas. So please come on down and participate.

Don Dix

CubFan -- Apparently, the city government believes that public sentiment means nothing. The state is attempting the same tactic with the kicker -- figuring out how to keep money that rightfully belongs to the taxpayers, by law.

How about we let the citizens decide? Otherwise, it becomes taxation without representation -- we all know how that worked out, right?

Don Dix

So scooter, the $13 'fee' added to the city W&L bill was for what purpose? It only requires common sense to see this 'extra tax' is nothing more than fabricated accounting to fit the narrative.

scooter

Don, I stand corrected the deficit was also dealt with the city services fee. So truly a myriad of solutions for a multi faceted issue. One that continues to get worse as our buildings, equipment and infrastructure age. The tax is a permanent one. That cannot be changed by anyone but the state legislature. The city can elect to underlevy their taxing authority. Which is indeed what they chose to do for last year. The creation of the new fire district was created by the voters when they voted for a "new" tax levy.

Again, please come to the public budget meetings and present your ideas how to better manage our budget. I can assure you that the city considers the public sentiment. But simply, sentiment does not pay the bills and keep services intact. We cannot simply will costs to lower. We have to deal with the reality that is presented no matter how frustrating that is.

And please, where is this fabricated accounting? If there is a crime that is being committed we must address that. But if you just don't like the budget that is being presented that is your right. But your argument is weak and flaccid if you can't back up your claims.

Don Dix

Weak? Flaccid? Seriously? If the tax levy (a distinction) for funding of the fire dept. is no longer being used to fund the dept., and the city is claiming to need that much money to keep up, again the question that isn't answered is 'what did the city do before the last year to keep up'? If they were that much behind, why are we just hearing about it?

How about just answering the questions without the usual dance around.

scooter

Not a new issue. Each year the city presents a proposed budget with "BASIC LEVELS OF SERVICE". Many times in our past we have had to amend what that means by lowering our level of service to meet the budget. ie furlough days, more and persistent potholes, fewer hours of operation at the library. The City also presents a list of adds if there is room in the budget. Pool building maintenance, new vehicles for an aging fleet.

So Don, there is your answer. There are cuts and there are underfunded departments.
Each budget cycle there is serious thought and discusion in many cases about what they can't fund and who can get by another year. There have been many causes for that, PERs liabilities going up, CPR which sets new home valuations at less then half of their real market value, CPI outpacing income, Inflation, the fact that deferred maintenance costs a lot more when it's kicked down the road.

I answered your question. Now if you wouldn't mind answering mine?

Article from 2019 highlighting budget issues.

https://newsregister.com/article?articleTitle=committee-passes-budget-with-reduced-reserve--1558053890--33259--

Article from 2021 same.

https://newsregister.com/article?articleTitle=talks-continue-on-lsquo-tight-rsquo-budget--1621615894--40299--

tagup

Scooter-
You realize that every business of size has the same issues to face. Sometimes the choices are hard and require lay-offs, reductions, or shut downs. They don’t have a “Water & Light” charge card to just cover the deficit. If the city needs millions to cover the necessities ….. they should ask the voters.

CubFan

Scooter- it’s hard to place any faith in the city council and mayor. They dance around the issues and only pull the curtain back far enough for the public to see without revealing the whole picture. Case in point- the $1.50. They wanted the fire department levy to pass. So they “sold” it to taxpayers by telling us it would be $2, and they would suspend the $1.50 for a year. This made it palatable for voters. They told us they weren’t sure IF or WHEN they’d bring that $1.50 back, but would ask taxpayer input. They promised a survey that would allow a provision for us to reject the $1.50. They came out with a lame survey that was worded in such a way that it forced us into selecting categories, and made it nearly impossible to find the “reject the $1.50” option. They paid over $30,000 for this survey and reported results that 687 people placed “Culture Parks and Recreation” at the top of their wish list. (seriously?) The News-Register conducted their own survey and got drastically different results. 54% of respondents favored returning the $1.50 to taxpayers. Most News-Register respondents favored maintenance/repairs and public safety for use of the funds. Then after this, the city came out with another survey about selecting various types of projects involving parks. It was almost like going Christmas shopping: “here’s a list of small, medium and large items… what do you pick”? If the city is in such dire straits, then why in are they so concerned about investing in parks, instead of critical services such as maintenance/repairs and public safety? It seems to me the News-Register respondents have more relevant concerns than those reported on the city survey.

CubFan

The Water & Light charge was assessed specifically to remove the $1.8 million shortfall. By early 2024, the funds collected should erase that deficit. Now you say the city can’t meet “Basic Levels of Service”. When are they going to be forthcoming and lay it all out on the line and tell taxpayers what is going on? You mentioned cuts and underfunded departments. Has the city told taxpayers about this? I agree with tagup. When a business finds itself in a pinch, they find ways to decrease costs, the city should do as much. And I completely agree, this should be brought to voters with transparent explanations about how we got into this mess, and what they need to get out of it. Meanwhile, put the parks survey on hold until critical service needs can be met! Remy Drabkin stated on a podcast that she placed high emphasis on transparency. I think it’s high time they pull the curtain back and be very frank with taxpayers about what is going on.

scooter

CubFan, Every year the city presents to the city council, the budget committee and the mayor with a budget and all the additional needs each department would like to address if possible. These are discussed in depth. All at public meetings. You can also find every budget that the city has adopted for more than a decade on the cities website. In what way is this dancing around? There is no curtain. You have access to every thing that is given to the budget committee and city council in the agenda packets that are also available.

What more do you need?

To both CubFan and Tag, Many many businesses go out of business for lack of funds. Many of these businesses do their best to cut costs to the lowest possible. They also try their best to find new avenues for cash flow. The city has been doing this for years, for all of the reasons I have listed before.

It was discussed in last night's meeting that the service charge could go away if the permanent tax rate of $5.02 were to be fully levied.

scooter

CubFan, Every year the city presents to the city council, the budget committee and the mayor with a budget and all the additional needs each department would like to address if possible. These are discussed in depth. All at public meetings. You can also find every budget that the city has adopted for more than a decade on the cities website. In what way is this dancing around? There is no curtain. You have access to every thing that is given to the budget committee and city council in the agenda packets that are also available.

What more do you need?

To both CubFan and Tag, Many many businesses go out of business for lack of funds. Many of these businesses do their best to cut costs to the lowest possible. They also try their best to find new avenues for cash flow. The city has been doing this for years, for all of the reasons I have listed before.

It was discussed in last night's meeting that the service charge could go away if the permanent tax rate of $5.02 were to be fully levied.

Bill B

Tagup - Well said

Lulu

I would have done the survey for only half the price. What a deal!

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