35 Days? Not Necessarily

DontWorryAboutItIn my last post An Eventful Year I highlighted a couple of dates and events regarding the 1/2 cent sales tax increase in Enterprise last year. The dates were 6/11/14 and 7/15/14. By my count that is 35 days between the public announcement of the “crisis” and “need” for a tax increase and the approval of this tax increase by the city council.

This is the second of three posts regarding events in Enterprise over the past year or so. In this post my goal is to focus on that tax increase and either remind you of how quickly or not so quickly this occurred and maybe point out a very common process that you might have previously never realized existed, and pose a few questions for your consideration.

“Don’t worry about it”

“Don’t worry about it” was the admonition given in 2013 whenever the subject of the $550,000 annual debt payback the school board was to begin paying in 2016 was mentioned as a concern. The reason behind this admonition did not become clear to me until June of last year when the sales tax increase proposal was made public. It was there all along just waiting for the right crisis to surface as the impetus for its implementation.

Classic Tax Increase

It followed the classic tax increase model used over and over again by those who have the power to levy taxes.

  • Create or take advantage of an issue/crisis that affects people emotionally or supposedly “gives them” something they now “need.”
  • Propose a tax increase as the only solution to this crisis. 
  • The tax increase will then become a reality very quickly.

In this case it took 35 days from initial public disclosure of this “crisis and need” to a simple unanimous vote by the city council.

I guess we should give the City Council credit for going through the motions for 35 days. They could have simply passed this at the next board meeting on June 17th. They did hold a public hearing to appear as if they were seeking input. However, I don’t believe anything said at that hearing could have affected their decision because it had already been made. I hope those citizens that did not support this tax increase will make their feelings public at the next city elections in 2016, just a little over a year away.

What Happened Between January and June?

There was no mention of a new income stream (translated tax increase) needed at the 2014 State of the City. In fact at that event we were told by the mayor, “Although the economy has been slow elsewhere, ours has remained on a steady upward growth to a planed out growth and it’s not declined.”

What happened between the end of January and the beginning of June that caused the need for a 1/2 cent sales tax increase? On the surface the obvious answer to that is helping the school system was the reason but was it really? Were they really not aware City employees deserved a raise in January? Were they really not aware Police and Fire personnel deserved raises, new hires and a new fire station in January?

Would different decisions have been made?

If you attended the 2015 State of the City event you would have heard about many new plans for 2015, including hiring more fireman and policemen, and building a new fire station with ‘to be paid from proceeds from this tax increase’ following them.

If they were not expecting to get this increase would they have made different decisions and prioritized spending differently in 2014? For example, would more funds have been allocated to Police, Fire and City employees’ needs and less to the Farmer’s Market in 2014 if they were not expecting and counting on this new revenue stream beginning in September 2014?

These are just questions that come to my mind when thinking about these events. Some will just call this prudent planning. Just to be clear, no laws were broken I am aware of and none are implied here. Public officials are fully aware that any action they take is subject to scrutiny and review and that is all that is being done here. Transparency with the people being served goes well beyond what is legal and I do wonder if that standard was met. Transparency is often used in politics today as a talking point but almost never practiced if it is even attempted.

Is transparency too much to expect of our elected officials?

So, was it really 35 days or was this tax plan was in the works much longer?

Should we have worried about it?

What do you think? I would love to hear your comments.

Until next time…

Originally posted on Peculiar Perspective on 3/15/2015

8 thoughts on “35 Days? Not Necessarily”

  1. I agree with all you are saying. I am from Enterprise. Married a pilot and was away for 10 years. Only to come back to the same ole same ole. They buddy system is the only politics that is upheld here. I feel that some trusted retired military individual should run for election and clean house at the decision levels. Lets get back to actually listening to the people

    1. Thanks for your comments Shannon. We moved back after 26 years so I really never new what was going on back then but I have learned a lot over the last 2-3 years. If you know someone like you mentioned willing to run for something encourage them to get involved. We need good candidates next year if any changes are going to be made.

  2. Stan, thank you for sharing your thoughts and especially your questions. I’ve had basically the very same ones.

    1. Thanks Bob. I don’t know if that means you should be worried you are thinking like me or visa versa or maybe we are on to something. It would be nice to have some answers though.

  3. Is it true that there is a city council meeting and board of education meeting at the same time Tuesday night? Do you think we should be concerned that one or the other may slip a vote through? Like the rezoning issue…

    1. I don’t doubt they scheduled these together for a reason. They know the city council meets the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month. From what I have seen the votes that actually occur at both of these meetings are just ceremonial and because they have to record it in the minutes. Their decisions are made by the time the meeting starts. I have never seen anything deliberated in either. In fact, in the school board meeting discussion about a motion is not even asked for until after the vote has been taken. So to make any difference in votes people need to contact their city councilman or board members prior to the meeting. It is good to have people comment at both meetings to get that on the record as well but unless this is an exception it will not change anyone’s mind on anything.

  4. I completely agree with your points. The excessive use of tax payer money with ZERO debate is just beyond my imagination. The farmers market is a prime example. Why was this needed? Why does it need a sound system that cost $74,000? Do they seriously believe this is where weddings and such will be held…its location is not exactly grand? I wonder why they paid $250 for a consulting fee to someone who works for Cotter construction, I do hope she didn’t suggest the tacky decor on the corner…that just looks to me like an episode of Green Acres. What in the world is the Enterprise Civic Center for?? Considering this is my tax money and I have been personally involved in trying to get our city to build a skatepark for the youth (not to mention it has been a request since 1992) I’m fed up and beyond disappointed in these men. I’ve read countless minutes from these meetings and am just floored by such wasteful and outright disrespectful use of funds so flippantly.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your comments Lyn. You pose some very good questions that, I suspect, many would like to see answered. I wish I knew. I hope to be able to share how anyone who shares these same concerns can help provide some transparency in local government soon. Stay tuned and keep watching and keep speaking out.

Comments are closed.