To The Daily Sun,
When you start to work on the city budget you will hear many different positions of giving and taking. To be fair, we must look at all of them.
We know there is a concentrated effort out there that is working to put up candidates for election this year to replace those who favor the tax cap. That is their right, but it is essential that we look at the facts from everyone's viewpoint and do what is most right for the most people.
First of all, most of us on the council ran against the passage of the tax cap, but the people in their wisdom knew we were people who would abide by their wishes and would work under the tax cap. In the 11 years that we have dealt with the budget and the tax cap we have kept our word, and have discovered that the tax cap was the right thing to do. With the tax cap we have built or renovated every school in the city, built a new police station and fire station, and restored the library, which today is an outstanding jewel.
We have increased monies to be spent on our roads, not enough yet, but getting there. We are in the process of installing LED system to the entire city's lighting, which will save us thousands of dollars. We have added fire and police personnel to accommodate the changing times and demands. We built the Weirs Community Park. We are in the process of rejuvenating the Weirs Beach waterfront. We are redoing Weirs Beach Lakeside Avenue with water and sewer improvements, as well as loaning funds to the Weirs TIF for underground utilities and amenities to Lakeside Avenue.
All of the above and more have been done with regard for the taxpayer and keeping the tax rate from rising excessively. when the tax cap is gone, the spending will come and with it, more taxes.
We could have done more if we overrode the tax cap, but unless it involves the safety and welfare of our citizens, we won't do so. If the need should arise, know that the council will take everything in account and do what is necessary for the good of the taxpayer and everyone who lives here.
In the beginning, I spoke of more than one side to things. There are departments in the city that would increase their budgets every year without regard to cost and effect.
Let's look at the people's budget.
This year, senior citizens — the largest growing population of people in the city and the county — received 0.3 percent increase in their Social Security. In my case, the Medicare insurance went up $5 more a month and the Medicare drug program went up $27 a month more. After deductions my check was $22 less than last year. Also, remember that in 2010 and 2011, seniors were asked to forgo rate of inflation to help the federal government. We did and we did not complain. We adjusted our living costs.
The government says that inflation wasn't a factor last year. I wonder if they have to pay for food, lights, gas, heating, and health care. I will never complain, as I have gotten more from Medicare than I could ever pay in a lifetime, but there are many more that face hardship. Increases in their property taxes or rent will not be borne lightly.
This is also true for the majority of our working people who are holding down two jobs to just feed their families and pay rent. Do we not have over 60 percent of our children getting free breakfasts and lunches in school? Why? Do you get it? Many people do not have health insurance or they have Medicaid at the expense of those who can pay for it. Their hours are such they don't qualify for benefits. And, because in most cases, both parents are working they have to pay high costs for day care. I'm sure many would rather be home overseeing the lives of their children and being able to enjoy them.
The City's Budget.
First, the city has four groups to fund: The general government, public safety (police and fire), education, and highway/streets. On top of this, we also have to pay our share of the county budget which runs about 18 to 20 percent of the total county budget. Last year our share was $2,540,826. Education takes 52 percent of the city budget and all the other departments must split the other 48 percent. Public safety (fire and Police) is second with 16.4 percent of budget. Big difference. These figures are taken from the 2016 Financial Audit Report.
The city is mandated to pay increased charges for the retirement fund by the state and increased health care costs. Employee contracts must be settled. A lot to deal with.
To quote from The Daily Sun, Dec. 22, "Census data confirms stalled population growth and shrinking workforce here." You would think departments asking for money would think about that.
I always ask before spending your money, is it necessary? Will it do harm if we don't spend? Can it wait?
A lot to think about and everyone should do just that and take part in the process.
Ward 4 Councilor
- Category: Letters
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