To the Editor:
Why is it that our property taxes have risen 135 percent since the year 2000? That’s an average increase of 7 percent every year. Yet we are consistently told by our council that the numerous new building developments they have ravaged upon us will create a tax base that will in turn give the citizens a break on their property taxes. That’s just pure baloney, as who is paying for the entire associated infrastructure. Obviously the developers aren’t; we are. Therefore the taxes generated by the city’s numerous overdevelopment programs are being spent in other areas and are not being returned to us as tax rebates.
Take for example the city manager’s proposed budget for FY 2015? The new pay schedule proposed by the city manager for his own office tells you a lot. It seems that three of his assistants have reached their maximum pay (or reached the top step in grade); however the manager has now created his own scale called the “Top of Scale Adjustment” which equates to an increase of 2.3 percent of salary. In real terms this means that all three will receive about a $5,000 raise. Three other members of his staff will also receive between $4,000 to $5,000 raises. The city manager himself however tops the Richter Scale by giving himself a raise of $16,420 resulting in a salary of $263,870 or a 6.6 percent increase. This is not only bizarre, it’s above the pale. A $16,420 raise for doing what? This manager has isolated himself from the community by appointing a chief of staff and a number of other go-fers. In a poor economy this is what our city officials are doing to help the community? The council needs to reject all these pay raises and start paying attention to where city funds should be spent. A good place to start is on our public safety, especially by not moving assets out of firehouse 204 on Powhatan Street to the new firehouse 210 on Eisenhower Street.
Even with the generation of all our revenues primarily through property taxes, the city is looking at a deficit of $35 million in the FY 2015 budget. The real question then is how does the manager intend to balance the books? If you are a senior who has a house assessed over $575,000 and even if you make less than $40,000 you will pay the full property tax on that property. That means that if you bought your house many years ago at a lower price and now your house is assessed at $600,000 you will pay the full tax of $6,000. This initiative will save the city about $1.3 million. In addition, the Senior’s Taxi Program is a candidate for elimination because it will save $164,000. Attempting to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors and public safety is nothing short of an underhanded financial management strategy. Oh, by the way, it is also recommended that we pay parking meter fees up till 9 p.m. which means another $3.50 for those two extra hours of parking.
Now that the Boat Club negotiations are almost over it means that the city will owe the club $5 million to move to the new Prince Street location. Additionally, the city bought the Beachcomber and one third of Chadwick’s parking lot for $2.5 million out of the open space fund. Those funds have to be returned to that open space fund. It means that it will cost the taxpayers $7.5 million for that move. That equates to at least an additional 2 cent raise on our property taxes if council opts to fund it that way.
The end product of all this is that we the citizenry will continue to pay outlandish property taxes at the expense of funding a financially healthy city workforce who continually fail to listen to our concerns on most of the major issues facing us. It’s time for a change.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet