In 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