Sunday, April 26, 2020

Councilman Thom Druffel: It's Budget Time.

From the email newsletter of Councilman Thom Druffel, Councilman District 23, April 26, 2020 - I have been receiving questions from many of you about the Mayor's statement on raising property taxes. This is a tough time for all of us, and hearing news about a raise in property taxes is especially difficult. We are all dealing with social distancing, concerns about health, job losses and disruptions to our normal routines. I describe myself as a fiscal conservative, and generally, that means I do not look at raising taxes as a way to solve funding issues.

The situation the city is facing is certainly grave. One of the big reasons that I ran for council last year was my concern about the financial state of our city. Long before the tornado, and the effects of COVID-19, the city had not balanced its budget for the previous two years. Years of overspending created over $4B in debt. That works out to be about $6,500 per person and is one of the highest debts per capita in the country. The condition was so severe that the State required the Comptroller to step in and monitor how the former mayor and council were managing the city's finances. Decisions were made over the past several years that began a pattern of overspending on projects. Those decisions lead the city into deep debt.

On Tuesday, the Metro Council will get our first glimpse of the mayor's proposed budget. Mayor Cooper served on the Council for eight years before running for mayor, so he is very informed about the financial condition of the city. What we will see from him and his Finance Team on Tuesday is the initial Operating Budget.

After that, each Metro Department will submit its budget information to the Budget and Finance Committee on which I serve. We will have the opportunity to speak with each department head and hear their proposed budget needs. From there, we can critically evaluate department budgets and consider cost saving measures.

As of today, we don't have a lot of the detailed information we need to discuss property tax increases. We don't yet have the Mayor's proposed budget. We have not yet gotten a reliable number for lost revenue from the COVID crisis. Federal funds will be coming to the city, but that number is not yet certain.

Even with all of the uncertainties, I can tell you that I am not comfortable with the idea that taxpayers have to shoulder the burden of years of poor stewardship. If we determine that there is not an alternative to a tax increase, I want to make sure that there are safeguards to prevent overspending in the future. There are options, such as sunset provisions, that would put a time limit on property tax increases. As we go through the next several weeks of budget meetings and hearings, I will be gathering information to share with you all. As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.

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1 comment:

  1. Giving more tax dollars to our local elected leaders is akin to giving more drugs to a drug addict. I prefer a municipal bankruptcy.