It’s smoke and mirrors time at City Hall again. I’m speaking, of course, about budget season. Every year, the City Manager’s office plays a rather painful game with the City Council and the public over the budget.
It goes something like this. Every spring, we are shocked with the news that there will be a $50-$100 million budget gap in the next year’s budget. We are told to expect swimming pool closings, reductions in library hours, and the “moth-balling” of fire engines.
What the public is rarely told is that this so-called “gap” is a result of department heads’ “wish lists” of what they would like to spend in next year’s budget as compared with expected revenue.
For example, this spring we were told that General Fund expenditures would be near $575 million in fiscal year ’93-’94. With revenues of “only” $521 million expected, a disastrous “gap” of over $50 million was projected.
But wait – last year’s ’92-’93 General Fund budget was only $512 million; $501 million in ’91-’92; $512 million in ’90-’91; and $499 in ’89-’90.
In other words, after four years of stagnant budgets, the projections showed a $9 million increase in revenues over ’92-’93.
That should have been cause to dance for joy and to certainly expect no tax increase, given this $9 million “surplus”. But not at City Hall. Government does not run its affairs like you or I would and certainly not like a business.
Over the summer, of course, the City Manager’s budget was paired down with “painful” cuts (of the 208 positions scheduled for elimination, only 60 are currently filled) and on Aug. 8, we were presented with the City Manager’s budget, which called for a mere 2.5 percent tax rate increase.
Needless to say, we are told we should be thankful it was not more. It should also come as no surprise that other “taxes” are being recommended for increases, such as sanitation fees, environmental fees and your water bill.
Although it is true that property values have fallen dramatically over the past five years in Dallas, the lion’s share of that decrease has been in the reduction of commercial property values.
Thus, the overall 20 percent increase in the tax rate since the ’87-’88 budget is being borne most harshly by those least able to afford it, the homeowners of Dallas. For many on fixed incomes, the impact has been devastating.
Huge new federal taxes, sky-rocketing school taxes (thanks to Robin Hood), and recommended City tax rate hikes combine to create a deadly mix for our economy.
How can Americans be expected to save and invest when the government monster devours more and more of our incomes?
They City’s tax rate is all the more egregious when one considers that the City Manager’s budget recommends spending $100 million in new debt, giving all City employees a three-percent, across-the-board raise, which is above and apart from the 60 percent of the employees who get “merit” raises and millions of dollars for those with executive car allowances.
It just is not right.
For these reasons, I hope you will join me in my opposition to the City Manager’s budget and to higher taxes.
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