By Daniel Downs
The signs are all around. Like flashing yellow and red stoplights, they remind us of the potential danger that lies ahead.
In a popular Republic such as ours, participation in politics is a requirement. The continuation of our freedom and prosperity depends on it. The maintenance of those common benefits provided by elected government requires our time and consideration, and so do our local services like police and fire.
The yellow signs present us with the need to be cautious. On one hand, a danger exists that Xenia residents may loose quality of police, fire, or other tax funded services. The reduction of police, fire, or other personnel is an issue the current recession has forced upon the city. This threat is more likely to become reality if the proposed operating levy renewal is rejected.
On a national scale, signs of our times speak of big socialistic government, increasingly huge federal debt, and subsequently more taxes. These trends signal a negative economic future for us all. This alone should cause us to give greater consideration to best methods of dealing with local effects.
To some, those yellow and red signs sprouting up everywhere also portend more taxes. Unlike the new taxes proposed by liberals on Capitol Hill and the last proposed operating levy, this operating levy renewal is reasonable. No New Taxes is the big red promise of city officials and their yellow signs.
While liberals are burying the national economy with debt, our local economy is depressed along with the state coffers. As amazing as it may seem, our elected city officials do get it. That is why all of them just want the operating levy renewed.
According to City Manager Jim Percival, the levy renewal will only generate $409,000 in revenue. If we look at the big picture, we will see the operating levy generating a mere 2.3 percent of the total general fund revenue, which was $14.5 million in 2007. General fund revenue includes the municipal income tax (56.6%), other local taxes (9.6%), taxes shared by other county and state government (13.2%), charges for services not considered as enterprise (water and trash) (10.1%), fines, licenses, and permits (6.6%), intergovernmental grants (1.3%), and miscellaneous receipts (2.7%). If we consider just direct taxes, we will see the operating levy only generating a meager 3.3 percent. In 2007, direct taxes were $12.3 million.
Another important figure to keep in mind on August 4 is the year-end general fund balance. At the end of 2007, it was over $1 million. This substantial sum probably is included in the $3 million reserve fund that is required by Ohio law. I suspect the reserve exists to cover unexpected situations like major infrastructure failure, recessions, failed tax levies, and the like.
A legitimate question bouncing around in my cranium is this: If there is so much excess revenue, why should I support the levy? I can think of several reasons:
One very important reason is that the operation levy renewal will not increase current taxes. Another is a decrease in tax revenues. This decrease in city tax revenue is the glorious result of the engineered recession by liberal bureaucrats. The decrease is the outcome of increased unemployment among Xenia residents. As a result, city income tax revenue is down 5.6 percent or $204,000, according to Finance Director Mark Bazelak. It is also likely to cause a decrease in shared tax revenues as indicated by decreases in County property and income tax revenues and personnel reductions. All of which illustrates the city’s need for the operating levy revenue.
During a recent city council meeting, one elected official said the city would not have enough money to cover all operating expenses even with the operating levy renewal. Although she didn’t elaborate on the issue, I suspect planned increases in union wages and benefits accounts for the anticipate lack. While government union employee pay may be increasing above inflation, the income of many non-union employees in private industry is not. To the degree this remains the case, a proper response of affected taxpayers should be who cares. Why should we care about government salary increases or about the union contract law? Increases in government employee pay means more new taxes. If the city can attract more new residents and profitable businesses, more new tax revenues will flow into the city’s coffers eliminating the need for more new taxes. Besides, citizens do not exist either for the high cost of government programs or for the profits of low paying corporate millionaires or billionaires.
Like all Americans, what Xenia taxpayers need is real change. If it ever happens, the addition of new taxes for improved services and/or infrastructure will be a non-issue. Until then, I still think maintaining the city’s operating levy revenue will benefit us all.