Shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday, municipalities across our coverage area will convene to approve budgets for the coming fiscal year and set their final levies.
Most cities are keeping their levies level with last year’s numbers. Many of them are extremely proud of the fact that the city portion of residents’ tax bills will not go up.
But sometimes you have to wonder if the reason for not raising a levy is more a matter of competitive pride than actual common-sense governing.
My view is this: If any entity is going to raise my taxes, I’d prefer it be my city. Why? Because with fairly little effort I can track exactly where that money is being spent.
And if it means I will be driving on streets that aren’t filled with chuckholes and that my roads will be plowed when it snows, I’m in favor of spending more money on that.
Honestly, if one of my city council members tells me my taxes need to get bumped up in order to keep the parks and trails in good shape, I wouldn’t have a problem with that.
And I don’t think I’m alone.
What most of us object to is the levels of government starting just above municipalities raising our taxes without adequate explanation or justification – “representation” you might say.
When the 1.2 million people in Hennepin County are represented by seven commissioners, it doesn’t exactly leave you brimming with confidence that your voice is being heard. It’s sometimes referred to as an oligarchy.
Have you ever tried to trace a tax dollar through the state government’s coffers? Good luck. Most of the state legislators don’t have a good sense of where the state’s money is spent. So how am I as average Joe citizen going to know?
The federal government is even worse. Talk about your black holes.
When these entities tell me they need more of my money, I hark back to an old theme Nancy Reagan made popular in the war on drugs, violence and premarital sex – “just say no.”
Without question, the hearts of city council members are almost always in the right place. They don’t want to be seen as the “bad guys” going around and raising taxes. And I get that.
We’re hearing a lot of talk these days about the need to increase tax revenue at all levels of government. So if I accept the inevitability that my taxes will need to go up, I’m saying I’d just much rather have them go up at the municipal property tax level where I know I am getting bang for my buck.
Moreover, if I’m not, I know exactly who to call and can easily find a phone number or an email address – or stop off at city hall on my way home from work.
For the rest of the entities out there trying to get into my back pocket, go away.
You’ve got work to do to prove to me that any dollars I give you are going where they are needed instead of being wasted.