Leppert: Tax Hike Is "A Very Risky Gamble"

Categories: City Hall
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Mayor Tom Leppert has said it time and again: No tax hike. No way, no how. But in case you missed it the first 29 times, his e-vite to tomorrow morning's council budget briefing serves as yet another just-say-no note in which he takes aim at Angela Hunt and the other seven council members supporting a near-max tax hike intended to restore $40 million in services cut from Mary Suhm's budget:
This proposed hike is the highest in the last 20 years. And it's definitely going in the wrong direction. Once tax rates go up, it is rare they ever go back down ... even in good times. That's why since 1982, our city's tax rate has risen a whopping 32%. Keeping our tax rate stable, especially in this troubled economy is the better decision. A tax hike now is a quick fix that will leave us in the same position next year and in years to come. It's a very risky gamble.

We need to hear from you. Decision time is almost here. Tax-hike supporters have dug in their heels. Only their constituents can move them. Let the Council know how you feel. Email, call, or come to the City Council meeting Monday, September 13 at 9 a.m. Hold us all accountable.
The entire missive -- which says a tax increase "matters to the returning war veteran trying to buy a first home but wondering now if Plano is a more affordable place to raise his family" -- is on the other side. Popcorn.
This is no time for a tax hike.

These are clearly challenging economic times. Challenging for our City's budget and challenging for Dallas residents and businesses. Families are dealing with reduced income, lack of jobs and uncertainty about their economic futures. They are forced to tighten their belts. The last thing they need is City Hall demanding more money. We must tighten our belts too.

So for the past few weeks, several Council colleagues and I did what any good businessperson would do. We've scrubbed the budget to find savings and focus our precious resources on the core services you expect us to provide.

Clearly, groups passionate about steering scarce budget dollars to their favored services have led the charge for raising taxes. They've done a good job showing up at town hall meeting after town hall meeting making sure they're heard. We appreciate that passion.

But we've also heard from the many, many constituents who could not attend these meetings. They have similar concerns about public safety, libraries, rec centers and roads. But they expect us to address these without raising taxes. And we have!

There is a "no-tax hike" plan.

Under our budget proposal, the city will have more police officers on the streets next year and we will not be closing fire stations, as many cities nationwide are being forced to do. It keeps libraries open and increases materials by 70%. It brings the hours and programs at our rec centers to full strength and uses private-public partnerships that add important fitness programs to improve our kids' health. It maintains our parks with reasonable mowing and trash pickup cycles and graffiti removal. And we will spend $145 million to rebuild our streets - that's half a million each work day on our roadways.

Again, all of these important concerns have been addressed, without a tax hike.

Sadly, the tax-hike supporters took a different approach.

They never bothered to find cuts or savings to try to balance the budget. Their default position to fund their add-ons? More of your money. They suggested no new savings or revenues to avoid raising taxes. Our proposal however found $8.9 million worth in order to fund $8.9 million in restored services. That's the responsible approach when using taxpayers' money.

Unfortunately, some say this is not a tax hike because property values have dropped. That's just plain wrong. While business property values have slightly dropped, residential values remain fairly flat. Make no mistake, this tax hike will hit homeowners right in their wallet.

What is truly sad is the sense that, somehow, this is not real money.

Some suggest it's a trivial amount that doesn't matter. It does.
  • It matters to the Oak Cliff mom working two jobs to hang onto her home.
  • It matters to the returning war veteran trying to buy a first home but wondering now if Plano is a more affordable place to raise his family.
  • It matters to the small business owner postponing the hiring of new employees until she can determine what all the new federal, health care, state, county and city taxes are going to end up costing.
  • And it matters to the big California firm moving operations to North Texas, but wondering if another city might be more attractive to the company's bottom line and the employees it hopes to move here.
Dallas already has one of the highest tax rates in North Texas.

This proposed hike is the highest in the last 20 years. And it's definitely going in the wrong direction. Once tax rates go up, it is rare they ever go back down ... even in good times. That's why since 1982, our city's tax rate has risen a whopping 32%. Keeping our tax rate stable, especially in this troubled economy is the better decision. A tax hike now is a quick fix that will leave us in the same position next year and in years to come. It's a very risky gamble.

We need to hear from you. Decision time is almost here. Tax-hike supporters have dug in their heels. Only their constituents can move them. Let the Council know how you feel. Email, call, or come to the City Council meeting Monday, September 13 at 9 a.m. Hold us all accountable.

Remember, it's your money.

Sincerely,
Tom

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