Monday, August 17, 2009

Penny wise, pound foolish

My dad always believed that you usually got what you paid for. As a result, he was never shy about paying a little more to move the quality needle upward. He knew that the additional investment would usually return to him, and then some.

I guess I've carried that notion into my own life. Certainly, I've not always been able to go for the best or the most expensive, but I have recognized the value of paying more today for an expected payoff later on.

All of the recent reports about the budget shortfall facing the City of Dallas and the City's plans to meet the funding shortage have me thinking about my dad.

So, I've done a little research on the City of Dallas, the current shortfall and the tax base for the city.

We are told that the shortfall will amount to $190 million for the next fiscal year. That represents 1/10 of the city's $1.9 billion spending plan to be approved by the City Council in September.

I got to thinking about that $190 million gap.

The City of Dallas' Tax Office told me when I called (they were extremely helpful, by the way) that the city received property tax payments from 390,932 taxpayers last year.

The city also receives funds from sales taxes and fees for various services, fines and permits. I realize that funding for the different departments and positions flows from various funds, each with complicating limitations and restrictions. The City's budget process is complicated.

Forgetting about these other sources of funding and the inherent complications for now, I calculate that if the property tax payers, all 390,932 of us, paid $486.02 more in property taxes this year lots of good things would happen in the city.

For example, all of the city employees (variously reported at between 900 and 1,300 individuals) who lost their jobs last Friday could be retained. Wonder what that would mean to their families and to the same tax base that pays their wages or to the status of their mortgages? Based on what I read in the news reports last Saturday morning, it sounds to me like the extra funds might not be needed for the entire year to maintain the city's full workforce. The City expects to be able to hire back many of those laid off within a few months, likely due to expected new sources of funds.

What's up with that? Why not raise taxes now, save all the jobs now, and next year pass along a tax reduction if that turns out to be possible?

No hours would need to be eliminated from the city's libraries or the swimming pools next summer or the recreation centers during the school year or the public health clinics. . .the list goes on and on.


Not an inconsiderable amount. And, I know, some would pay more based on the value of the home in question, but it's not a regressive system of taxation.

$486.02 at most. . .that works out to $40.50 per month or $9.35 a week or $1.33 daily. . .to save hundreds of jobs now, lost by my neighbors here in Dallas.

It appears to me that all of this pain and strain is being inflicted and endured so that we can all boast, "We balanced the budget without a tax increase!"

My dad wouldn't buy it. And, come to think of it, I bet my fellow citizens who lost their jobs wouldn't be celebrating either.

Lots of things are worse than an increase in taxes to support the common good, like, for instance, the overall decline of the common good.

I'd find it refreshing if our leaders reconsidered the challenge, got really responsible and levied a tax increase.

Maybe I'm just weird. But I come by it naturally. I got it from dad.

No comments: