Unfortunately taxes are a necessary evil we have to put up in order to fund the services our community has decided it requires. My goal is maximize our services and assets while keeping the costs and therefore the revenue requirements to a minimum. This is not an easy task but one that as an economist I am constantly dealing with.
Generally speaking I look at all the various options and try to find a mix of factors that together will best achieve my goals of low taxes and a better community. This often leads to an all-of-the-above balance that involves some revenues, some cost controls and a lot of efficient management. This balance frequently means everyone has to make some sacrifice.
Since no group, special interest or competing side gets everything they want they all tend to get upset with me. I realize this is a price I have to pay personally to achieve a balance that is best for the community as a whole.
Let’s look at the example of the city sales tax increase in 2005. Our revenues at the time were totally inadequate to fund the city that the community wanted. City council had been making dramatic cuts and the situation had declined to the point that even police services would have to be cut. I immediately concurred there would be a need for additional revenues in the form of a tax increase. However, I argued there should also be cost containment and the increase be limited to what was actually needed.
I argued a lower tax, perhaps a half cent or three quarters of a cent would be enough to solve the immediate problem, buy time for more permanent solutions and make a tax increase palpable enough to be passed by a hesitant citizenry (remember all previous tax proposals had been defeated handily).
When my compromise proposals were not accepted, I was faced (as were the voters) with the choice of the full one cent tax increase or no tax increase. In a classic lesser of evils choice, I had to throw my support to the tax increase.
The other example of a tax increase I supported was West Metro Fire’s bond and mil levy increase. The world has changed dramatically from the days when the fire service was first started. There are two major trends that have changed the way WMF does business. First, actual fire fighting has become a small part of the job. Most of WMF’s efforts are in emergency medical care – essentially the ambulance you see on the street. As you know, medicine has made dramatic advances in recent years. Taking advantage of the latest technology has saved a lot more of our citizens’ lives. Today, one’s chances of survival are much higher than just a couple decades ago. However, this improvement is service has come at a high cost.
Furthermore, our population is rapidly aging. This is dramatically increasing the need for emergency medical service at a corresponding increase in costs.
WMF’s facilities were badly outdated. For instance, the Green Mountain station was built in the 1960s before most people even lived here. There has been a dramatic increase in the population that has to be served. Add to that the new people moving into Rooney Valley and the Federal Center . The old station simply could not keep up with the overwhelmingly demands. A new larger station was needed to meet the needs of the next century.
Secondly, after 9-11, West Metro has new (and much more expensive) tasks to fulfill. As Lakewood ‘s first responders, WMF has to be prepared to deal with natural and man-made disasters. From chemical spills, terrorist attacks, building collapses, to acts of god, WMF is the primary agency to deal with whatever is thrown at our citizens. This requires expensive new technology and specialized training for our staff.
Since the lives of our citizens are literally on the line, I have to make sure WMF has the best resources available. In this environment, cost controls can only go so far. With this dilemma, there was no choice but to raise the taxes needed to fund these needs.