August 10, 2017 10:30:20 AM
When it comes to taxes, reasonable people understand the basic principle that the public services we rely on do not fall out of the sky like manna from heaven. As it is with most things, including taxes, you get what you pay for and the costs of those things do increase over time.
Even so, elected officials regard any tax increase with trepidation. It's dangerous territory.
As the old song goes, "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die."
Everybody wants good services, but nobody wants to pay more for those services.
On Tuesday, the Columbus City Council voted to raise taxes by 2 mills. The owner of a $100,000 home in the city will pay about $40 more per year.
The tax increase will generate approximately $384,000 in additional annual revenue for the city.
While there are some citizens who are opposed to the tax increase on general principle, most people will - or at least should - reserve judgment until we learn exactly what the city intends to do with that money.
The test is a simple one: Will the increase in taxes benefit me, my family and my neighbors? And, do I feel the city is responsibly spending the taxes it's already receiving?
Some plans for the money appear to be reasonable. For example, the city plans to use $88,000 to hire two new employees for the city's crime lab. We believe this is a reasonable move. In fact, not making additional hires likely would prove to be a case of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. The new hires will allow the crime lab to perform peer reviews of its reports internally. As it is, the crime lab is spending $20,000 for outside peer reviews of some of its reports. Soon, federal law will require that all cases be peer-reviewed. Without the additional hires and the ability to do these reviews in-house, the cost of those reviews would be substantial.
Although the council has not taken any action, there is some sentiment among council members that the additional money generated would be used to implement some of the recommendations for the police department suggested by consultant K.B. Turner.
There is likely to be public support for that. Residents can draw a direct line between expense and benefit where public safety is concerned.
Another idea, giving city employees pay raises, may be a more difficult sell. While we want our city employees to be fairly compensated, we expect the council to make a compelling case for those raises. Are our employees under-paid compared to those in comparable cities? Will pay-raises prevent good employees from leaving the city? Will those raises improve performance?
As the council considers how it plans to use these additional funds, two questions should be at the forefront on their deliberations: Does this improve the lives of our citizens and are we being prudent with the money we already have?
Support for the tax increase will rely on how many of those moves are "yes" answers to those questions.