No one likes paying taxes. The only thing worse than paying taxes is knowing that they are being spent unwisely, into services and projects with bring very little, if any, value to residents or you personally.
Today municipalities, like us, have to find ways to deliver their mission within the limited budget that they have to their disposal. More and more things are being downgraded from federal to state, and now from state to municipal with the tax division staying roughly the same. So how are cities today coping with an increasing mandate while having the same funds?
They are forced to be crafty.
One way is to increase controllable revenue by raising property taxes, while another way is to cut the fat on services and more.
The first is not as appealing as the second because high property taxes can also drive residents out of the area and into cheaper places to live. With a highly mobile population, people are willing to get up and move if the conditions don’t suit them. This makes municipalities hesitant to simply increase their taxes. Quite the opposite, many end up lowering them to stimulate development by investors and individuals who are drawn by the lower cost of living but potentially high level of satisfaction and quality of life.
Outsource to the private sector
Everyone wants to have a cushy city job. Why not? A nice pension, decent hours, good pay, are all things that we can easily get used to. However, it’s your tax dollars which are covering all those benefits, including those trips to the watercooler and the budget for throwing baby showers at work. Nowadays, many municipalities are decreasing their staff levels and outsourcing when possible. The private industry is traditionally the better bang for your buck, as they have to keep their prices competitive to gain clients in this market. They are also more accountable when it comes to the quality of their work, meaning that you get more done at a lower price and with better results. That we can all understand. That’s why you’ll find fewer and fewer city-owned landscaping trucks, while maintaining roads has been outsourced to experts in road marking services, line marketing, car part markings and warehouse line marking.
Invest into revenue-making projects
Never before have cities felt the pressure to generate revenue like they do today. Every decision they make has to bring a revenue generating aspect to the table, even if maybe the effects are not immediate. So if by building a stadium they can attract large concerts, sporting events, and more, then they would be more willing to create the potential for direct and indirect revenue than, for example, add a new playground to a run-down park. Unfortunately, this can also mean that the funding for important but non-revenue generating services like welfare or support for families dries up. It’s all about balancing the needs of the individuals living within the municipality.
Promote Citizen Involvement
When the city asks for people to get involved and gives them more leeway with certain projects, be they beautification, historical restoration, or social justice, it means that they can lay off the gas and transition into the role of liaison rather than main planner. By giving local organizations more power, municipalities have a chance to disengage themselves and act as supporters, meaning less of a staffing and financial obligation than if it were strictly up to them.
If you feel like your municipality is spending tax dollars the wrong way and aren’t employing the popular methods outlined above, it might mean that it’s high time for you to voice your concerns. American debt is mounting, and we are all part of the potential solution by becoming involved in our communities.