Tuesday, May 12, 2020

We are going to have a property tax increase. The question is, how much?

by Rod Williams - We are going to have a property tax increase. The question is, how much?  In fact, not a single Council member will vote against a tax increase.  Often in years when we have a tax increase, there will be a few Council members who will vote "no."  I have heard Council members avow they did vote against the proposed tax increase budget.  They really didn't.

Here is how the Metro Budget is passed.  The mayor, after holding administrative budget hearings, develops a budget and presents it to the Council.  The Council can adopt it or change it.  The Council almost always makes some changes to the budget.  Even in years when a tax increase is not proposed, the Council usually shifts some money.  Usually in years in which a mayor proposed a tax increase, Council comes up with a budget that also increases taxes but less than what the mayor proposed. Then the council votes to adopt the budget. If they change the budget, that budget is now called "the substitute budget," or "the Council's budget."

Assume the Council's budget raises taxes but not as much as the Mayor's budget and assume a conservative member of the Council thinks the Council's budget still raises taxes too much and he votes "no."  What he has done is vote for the Mayor's budget that raises taxes more than the Council budget.  Here is what the Charter says:

The council shall finally adopt an operating budget for the ensuing fiscal year not later than the thirtieth day of June, and it shall be effective for the fiscal year beginning on the following July 1st. Such adoption shall take the form of an ordinance setting out the estimated revenues in detail by source and making appropriations according to fund and by organizational unit, purpose or activity as set out in the budget document. If the council shall fail to adopt a budget prior to the beginning of any fiscal year, it shall be conclusively presumed to have adopted the budget as submitted by the mayor. 
So, a vote against the budget before the Council is a vote for the Mayor's budget. That is the effect of a "No" vote.  If there is one Charter change I would like to see happen, I would like that changed.  It does not have to be this way.  In some cities, if the council fails to pass an annual budget, they may pass a monthly "continuing resolution" of 1/12th of last year's budget until such time they can agree on a budget. In those cases, a "no" vote really is a no vote.

The key to passing a Council budget is to get a budget that can get 21 votes. Some members may think the mayors budget does not raise taxes enough.  Some members want no tax increase. Somewhere between these poles is a budget number that can garner 21 votes.

I am pleased that some Council members are advocating no to any tax increase.  That is a good place to start but I can almost guarantee you there are not 21 votes for no tax increase.

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