2007/08/11

Income Tax- the final showdown

The Battle Royal

Yawn...stretch...blink…blink… somebody say fight?

So it’s official, we now have two organized camps to re-hash and re-debate the city income tax.

If you have made up your mind about the tax, you will obviously be persuaded by the eloquence of your favoured camp. If not, then you might want to read this.

The question comes down to a matter of trust. Who do you believe? More importantly, but less frequently asked, why should you believe them?

The only reason to believe any of them is if they are heading in a direction you want to go.

In my world, “lips moving” is a sure sign that a politician is twisting the facts. It is true on both sides of any debate, it is true on both sides of the larger political arena, and it is true in most units of government.

The basic question, then, is not about truth or personal integrity, but about direction. Is [name the person] taking our city in a direction I want to go?

The two directions are these.

For the tax: A fear based campaign based on the ability to maintain services. In a nutshell, if you don’t give us the tax we will cut your police and fire services, blight will increase, as will insurance costs.

Against the tax: A hard-nosed campaign based on the inability of the tax to provide services in the long term. Basically, the tax cannot preserve existing services for more than 5 of the 6 years it will supposedly be in place for. With Water Street included in the budget, that is more like 2 years.

What the "for tax" camp is not saying is that, after 2 years (thanks to Water Street), we will have to make the same cuts in services with the same "dire" outcomes.

What the "against tax" camp is not saying is that the increased revenue stream makes the cuts (and the impact of Water Street) less drastic.

What the "for tax" camp is not saying is that, once their "temporary" tax is in place, the city will not be able to be solvent without it. There is nothing temporary about it. If you buy the idea that we need it in the first place, you will buy the idea that we can't continue without it.

The "for tax" camp also fails to address the impact on housing and business that the tax has. Its presence on the agenda has stalled housing markets in the city for years already. It fails to address how it is that the poorest community in the county is soon to have the highest tax rate-and for what extra services are we paying such a premium?


OK, so what ARE the facts that we can glean from the bologna?

The city is in poor financial shape.

The Blue Ribbon Committee on City Finances tells us the city is being well run. (Basically, the “well run” assessment means there is no obvious graft or corruption… I asked at the time).

The city cannot maintain services at current levels, with or without the tax.

There’s really not much more to it. Do we buy a couple of years of services, or do we begin to cut now?

For my money, we should bite the bullet and cut services, all the while working to make the best use of the resources we have. I expect we can trim some jobs in city hall without sacking firefighters and police officers.

Adding the tax gives the architects of Water Street (Farmer Meadows? … goose-poop acres?) a “new credit card”, paid for by the blood-sweat and tears of the rest of us. I don’t feel that the City Manager, Mayors past or present, or most of the city council have proven themselves responsible enough to handle the credit card without getting us into much deeper doo-doo.

The city’s fiscal situation is a mess. Water Street has compounded that mess many fold. Throwing money at it didn’t help before, it is not going to help now. The city manager has to start managing his departments in a way that IS sustainable and the good folks of Ypsilanti are going to have to live with it.

The addition of an extra tax burden does nothing to help the growth of our city, and cuts can be made that don’t affect police and fire.

In essence, the city needs to elect officials who are prepared to do the hard things necessary to achieve viability, rather than to continue to spend money we don’t have in the vain hope that the economy will turn around.

The bottom line - Do you want to pay more tax or not?

Its going to be difficult without the tax, its going to be difficult with the tax. The end result will be much the same either way.

Either way, there are drastic cuts to be made.

Either way, Water Street will draw heavily on the city’s coffers for the foreseeable future.

Either way, the people of Ypsilanti will have to roll their sleeves up and work their way out of this mess.

Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Take Care

Rod

1 comment:

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