Letter: Value of Tax Money Spent?

Letter: Value of Tax Money Spent?

To The Editor:

I found Mary Kimm’s March 27 editorial on access to income taxes absolutely distressing. Giving our city access to another revenue stream is the political equivalent of giving drugs to an addict. Taxes are their drug of choice and it is a delusion to think that a piggyback tax will result in any significant real estate tax relief. Maybe Kimm trusts the council, but I and many others do not. Our City Council has shown that it has never met a tax it did not like and would not increase. After all, these are the same people who need lessons in civic engagement.

As for the school system, we have some of the highest per pupil costs and all we get are six schools that do not meet standards and one in the bottom one percent of elementary schools in commonwealth rankings. In Economics 101 this is the classic text-book case marginal (declining) utility, where each additional dollar of resource yields less result than the preceding dollar. There is no reason to believe the additional $2.5 million in funding that Kimm refers to will somehow magically and mystically produce results that the first $190 million from the city did not produce. Remember there is roughly another $50 million from the Commonwealth. What makes that last 1 percent in funding so magical? Perhaps the better approach would be to cut $2.5 million as a way to make the school system think about how to really improve performance. Almost any other school system anywhere would be thrilled to have these kind of per pupil resources.

We see even more fiscal foolishness with the proposal to extend parking meter hours. It is the veneer of a good idea, but it is social engineering that is not thought out. Our vice mayor understands the possible negative impact. There is a direct linkage between meter hours, ticket revenue and restaurant tax receipts. If people enjoy a good meal and linger over dessert, they may not pay attention to their parking meter. The 90-minute use mentioned in the article does not indicate a time of day pattern. This is important to understanding the impact of changing meter hours. Since parking enforcement is one of our most efficient city services, these diners who just paid the 10 percent restaurant tax may find an expensive ticket to complement their meal. They will pay that $35 ticket, but may decide Alexandria is not a nice place to spend their money and pay our 10 percent restaurant tax. These bad experiences linger. It may be the most expensive ticket ever issued. Hopefully the City Council will look at the bigger picture of the more important revenue source and visitor experience. We should not exacerbate the falling meal tax stream. Given parking enforcement efficiency, maybe they should run the school system.

I also find it disgraceful that the city manager is proposing a pay raise for himself that is far higher than the inflation rate. He is well paid as it is.

This is why we do not need a piggyback tax and why people in other, poorer parts of the Commonwealth think poorly of Northern Virginia. We need to think about how little we get for such high taxes.

William L. Blumberg, MBA