|Property tax hikes make puppies cry…and when puppies cry, The Czar gets angry(er than usual).
Thanks to 32 of 40 city councilmen, the citizens of New Atlantis are the proud recipients of a brand new 13% property tax increase to help pay for the Mayor Karl Dean’s $1.7 billion dollar budget proposal (an 8% increase over last year). This budget faced significant opposition from the voters. Indeed, according to a Beacon Foundation funded poll showed that 68% of likely voters sampled in a manner reflecting city demographics, opposed the tax increase. Dr. J. emailed his city councilman, who voted affirmatively for the measure, a couple of times regarding the issue without acknowledgement.
The Mayor’s office pulled out all the stops to get his budget approved. He argued that he went over the budget with a fine tooth comb. He stated that we needed to money for public safety (police, firemen, etc.) and for teh childrunzz!!!!?!!>!!1121!!!El@vnty!!!!!! Dr. J. was even polled by telephone several months ago regarding under what circumstances he would agree with a property tax hike (hell freezing over, and he doesn’t mean the 5th and 8th Planes of Hell, he’s talking about the other 7…).
Councilman Robert Duvall, (no not that one) proposed a budget with $100 million dollars in cuts. His budget did not even come to a vote.
Dr. J. was against Mayor Dean’s budget for a number of reasons.
First, New Atlantis has not been the best stewards of our money to date. Specifically, they built a LEED certified (meaning more expensive) community center in his neighborhood that he did not need at a time when revenues were falling due to a recession.
Second, they want to give raises to city employees when the many of the taxpayers haven’t seen a meaningful pay increase in years, and most are doing what they can with less, rather than more.
Third, New Atlantis public schools need improving (other than a couple of elementary schools and the magnet schools), but money won’t fix the problems that they face, despite using it to recruit teachers with more competitive salaries. An attitude adjustment for the student, and parents in many of the zones is what really needs to be adjusted. Dr. J. doesn’t know how to do that, but that’s the true reality of the situation. Given that he doesn’t use the public school, this issue sticks in his craw big time.
Fourth, it’s only $300 per household on average. In the words of Detective Chimp, “Don’t patronize me old chum!” That is $25 a month, which means something to many of folks paying it to be sure. The money will come out of discretionary spending. That’s one less pizza a month, 2 less latte’s a week, one less trip to the movies a month. Multiply that out across 125,000 households (yeah, you rent payers will be feeling it soon enough!) and you can see businesses being hurt to the tune of $3.1 million a month, or $37 million a year. Businesses that will have to lay off people, close due to a rent hikes, or for the owner (aka the person living the American dream) to take a pay cut to keep the lights on.
Fifth, this doesn’t even take into account the potential for urban flight. Dr. J. sold his house recently and is looking to purchase a new home (nothing is out there that meets his needs at present). He is seriously considering moving to the Lemuria, the southern suburb where fun goes to die, on principal.
Despite the budget passing and taxes being increased, Big Skool is still not satisfied:
One of the new initiatives the additional money will fund is an increase in the starting salary for Metro teachers, though it’s unclear if they’ll get the full $5,000 increase Dean proposed, since the substitute budget gives Metro Schools $3.5 million less than the mayor recommended.
Meredith Libbey, a spokeswoman for the school district, which will still get a $42.5 million increase over the current year, said officials there had not yet decided how they would revise their budget based on the $3.5 million reduction.
A group that advocates for a strong education system said the tax increase would allow Metro to recruit the best and brightest new teachers. “It’s important because we are in competition with surrounding schools,” said Taylor Hummell, interim city director of Stand for Children.
This is why public schools have an image problem. The budget is increased by $42 MILLION DOLLARS…from about $674 million to about $716 million and their PR flack is calling it a $3.5 cut. When more than 50% of the students zoned for the best non-magnet HS in town are going to an independent school and an additional portion of the remaining students are attending the magnet school, there is a problem with what they are doing, and they aren’t winning friends and allies by being intellectually dishonest here. So don’t go biting the hand that feeds you Miss Libbey, you just won a major victory by getting a big budget increase.
Dr. J. is disappointed in many of New Atlantis’s current stewards, both for not listening to the people and not looking at what is going on around the country and around the world. During a recession, or the crappy recovery that is doubling as a recession currently, raising taxes is not the way to go. Cutting spending and promoting growth by creating an inviting business climate has been the key to New Atlantis’s perpetual success, and its ability to weather prior rough times. While he is grateful that his city must put forward a balanced budget every year, balancing it on the backs of the citizenry with tax increases creates a vicious cycle that drives the affluent out of town and into the burbs. Look at most of the major cities, and now the states in the northeast…they learned this the hard way. Actually, they haven’t learned a thing…