Tax Rate Increase?
I am writing this letter to address the York City Council and Mayor, as the chairman of the York County Republican Party. While the city council is technically a nonpartisan body, all currently elected representatives are registered Republicans. The big issue that is currently in the news for the city of York, is the budget, if there is a problem, and if so, how did we get here and how can we fix it? According to the Nebraska Republican Party Platform, “Government should make a dedicated effort to raise and use tax monies fairly, and public participation in every aspect of the budget process be strongly encouraged and facilitated.” The platform also states elected officials will work to “reduce property, sales and income tax and to reduce the size of government when appropriate or necessary.”
I wanted to make this clear before I address the current issues at hand. While there has been an effort to have open public budget meetings lately, there has also been an effort to limit the opportunities for the public to comment on the budget/process. I would encourage the city council and mayor to have more opportunities for the citizens you represent to express themselves publicly.
Another major concern is the talk about raising taxes/fees. Over the past few years many fees and taxes have been increased or added; water, wastewater, occupancy, sales tax, landfill fees, and probably some others I’m missing. In addition, you are now looking at increasing more of those taxes and fees; property tax, water, wastewater, occupancy and possibly others. At the same time you are raising taxes on the citizens, you are also proposing cutting services and jobs.
As a Republican I am in favor of operating the government efficiently, and ultimately having a balanced budget each year. An efficient government does not mean we need to cut every single expense possible. There is a place for limited taxation, and for limited government, so our society runs smoothly. There may be areas of our city government that need cut, there may be taxes/fees that need to be temporarily raised, but what is currently going on seems to be more of a knee jerk reaction to a recently discovered “budget crisis.” I believe that a solution can be found that doesn’t include “taxing everything we can” and “cutting everything we can.” It was barely a month ago that the administration “discovered” this issue, added on top of a pressing need to get a budget done for 2018-2019. About half of the city council, the mayor, the city administrator and the city treasurer, are all relatively new to their positions. Making these types of drastic changes for the city’s budget, that probably isn’t fully understood by most council members/mayor, could have lasting unintended consequences.
Once a tax is added, it is rarely, if ever removed. I caution the council to keep that in mind as they move forward. Rather than cramming these decisions into a month, let’s give everyone involved a chance to study the issues, study the solutions, and prepare for the changes to come. If large budget items for departments are going to be cut, if employees are going to lose their jobs, if massive tax increases are going to be assessed to the public, let’s give everyone a year or two to prepare. The city has plenty of money to operate into the near future as is, if they choose. We are not broke. As of the last audit, September 30th 2017, the governmental side of the city had $4.7M available in unrestricted funds, $10.6M across the city as a whole. We may have a budget crisis, and if that’s true, let’s focus on finding actual solutions rather than just blindly raising taxes. Together, as a community, we can continue to make York a great place to call home.
Stephen Postier, Chairman
York County Republican Party