Saturday, March 05, 2011

Exclusive communities get expensive...

The dirty little secret that the NIMBY's either don't realize themselves, or would rather you not know is that a growing community costs the individual less money in taxes for public services.  Reduce the growth rate and watch your individual contributions to public services grow.

The chart on my last blog post shows clearly the direction the local community is headed.

I've documented the efforts of the no-growth folks to make the community more exclusive on this blog for many years.  I intimated that this day of reckoning was coming the whole time.  But, NIMBY's instead argued that folks like me were greedy... yep... their basic tenant was that anyone that supported growth was greedy, nothing more.

Now many of these same folks are up in arms regarding increased costs for public services and possible sales tax increases (which are more like probable sales tax increases... it would be the easy thing to do... and it has been done many times before).

In the Thursday edition of the there is this article reporting on a conversation held during City Council meeting last week.  Some highlights and comments to follow...

KINGMAN - What was meant to be a brief budget update Tuesday evening quickly evolved into the City Council's first overt move toward raising the citywide sales tax for the upcoming fiscal year.


(Financial Services Director Coral) Loyd said that, due to more than $1.5 million in state cuts and falling gas tax returns over the past several years, the city has had to dip into the general fund in order to make up the difference. She warned that continuing to do so would eventually deplete the general fund balance to the point where it could begin to negatively impact the city's bond and credit ratings. She estimated that that would probably happen once the fund drops to somewhere between $5 and 6 million, which could happen in as little as two years at the current rate.

So here is the situation, the state government is broke and won't be sending road improvement money to the folks in Kingman anymore. This means the folks in Kingman will have to pick up that tab, that is if they want maintained streets. Really, who didn't see this coming a mile away??


At that point, Mayor John Salem acknowledged that the city had already cut "to the bone" and that state-shared revenues were unlikely to return anytime soon. With few other realistic options available, Salem proposed raising the city sales tax .15 percent, which would bring the combined city, county and state sales tax to an even 9 percent from the current 8.85 rate.

"This is an ongoing problem, and I propose this to the Council right now - we're not in an emergency situation, but not to address this I think would be irresponsible," Salem said. "This is probably not very politically favorable on my part, but I think it would be more irresponsible if I were to not do anything."

Sucks to be the mayor right now as I know this is not the sort of thing he wants to do (as I doubt anyone elected to this Council would want to do either). But... choices they be a wee bit limited right now. The choice would be to have crappy roads to drive on in the city or to raise a tax to pay for maintenance of the crappy roads.

The mayor is right, something has to be done... but really something should have been done a long time ago. Kicking the can down the road didn't help the community then, and it certainly is not helping now.

More from the article...

Salem was met with immediate opposition from Vice Mayor Robin Gordon and Councilwoman Carole Young, who both agreed that a sales tax increase should be a last resort, and that the city should do everything it can to cut internal costs first.

"I don't think we've done that, and until I feel confident that everything's been done," Gordon said. "We heard a lot of suggestions at (last week's) town hall meeting, some may be viable, some may not, but I don't feel we've had that discussion yet, and until I feel confident that's been done, I would not be in favor of any kind of raise in the sales tax."

Young said she did not want to place an additional burden on Kingman's already hurting business sector. She added that the city has never taken the opportunity to hold its own brainstorming session on how else to raise new revenues, something she said the city should do soon.

I wasn't at the town hall meeting so I don't know what suggestions were made that could save the day, but reading through the comments at the article sort of leads to clues (liquidate assets and lay off city employees, if you don't care to read the comments). Laying off more people in a local economy on the ropes will suck but likely will be done. Selling off assets in a depressed real estate market will equal a drop in the bucket for long term issues like road maintenance.

The two comments I copied above, though, basically amounts to more can kicking down the road. I'm not trying to be critical of the two ladies at all. They are in a tough position with limited options (raise taxes or fire people).

I am basically a Tea Party kind of person. I believe, like millions of others, that us Americans are taxed enough already. I don't care much for federal programs, or state programs, but I get it and pay my taxes accordingly. I'm a bit softer on local taxes and fees only because if properly administered the effects of my tax dollars are tangible. If I am driving around town on well maintained roads, I probably don't miss the fifteen cents for every $100 dollars I spend locally (if a new tax is implemented to pay for road maintenance).


Councilwoman Janet Watson, however, agreed with Salem, saying that Council would be remiss in its duties if it did not create a permanent, reliable funding source for future street maintenance costs.

"When I think about how important it is that we not let our streets continue to deteriorate year after year and we know that the HURF money is going away and what's gone is not coming back, we have no way to cover that cost," she said. "None of us want to raise taxes, I know you don't. But to be realistic, I agree we would be remiss if we didn't put together some type of plan to say ... 'We can't let our streets just become full of potholes and dirt roads.'"

The same people bitching about a possible tax will be the same people that will bitch about the potholes and dirt roads (and yet for years I, and the people with similar views, are the ones being called greedy... go figure).

Last bit from the article...

While the street department estimates it will take about $1.5 million to bring the street repair schedule back up to date, Walker pondered how much that cost would increase if the city were to continue to neglect the streets for another year or two.

"There's never a good time to raise taxes," (Councilman Keith) Walker said. "But I agree if we don't do something to start replacing that HURF money, what's the financial burden going to be on the city long-term if we let these roads get away from us? It's astronomical how much it's going to cost us."

This is precisely what the NIMBY's either intentionally, or just by ignorance, fail to realize. The anti-growth crowd stated at public meetings and even in the local media that they wanted to put the brakes on growth in Kingman. They did it, and now they will have to pay for the exclusivity they demanded... unfortunately so will everyone else that saw this coming from a mile away.  The city government could be eliminated and costs would still continue to rise for the individual in the community.  Inflation is kicking in right now, those costs only get more onerous as we kick the can down the road.

The solution I've favored, and have been called greedy for, involves attracting more dollars to the community.  If anything, to spread those costs around so that public services don't become the burden they will become. 

Really, look at the chart from the previous post.  Realize that the data that is lagging by a year.  There was only a 0.01% rate of growth in the last report, I bet costs have risen more than that since... meaning that yes you will have to contribute more and the choices of either paying more in taxes or reducing public services aren't really choices.  Both will happen.

The short sighted and closed minded NIMBY's will look to blame everyone and everything else... but the wheels were set in motion a few election cycles ago.  They wanted it, they got it... and now they are shocked that they have to pay for it.

Meanwhile I laugh at their expense.