The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Friday, August 19, 2005

Council News Update

Looks like Councilman Kevin Wolff's plan to-minimally- cut property taxes is going nowhere fast:

City Councilman Kevin Wolff's proposed $13 million property tax cut got little love Thursday from his colleagues.

They said they're willing to discuss Wolff's plan, which would gobble up half of the city's $26 million surplus, but several members expressed major doubts.

"I represent an area that has many unfunded needs," said East Side Councilwoman Sheila McNeil. "Changing the (property tax) rate right now wouldn't benefit my community, but I look forward to the discussion."

Wolff also suggested putting $6.5 million in the city's reserve fund and setting aside another $6.5 million — the remainder of the surplus — for 2007, when the city will face an estimated shortfall of $22 million.

Although the freshman councilman said, "I didn't get nearly as much resistance as I'd thought," he acknowledged that council backing for the tax cut was tenuous.

Several colleagues looked more kindly on the idea of bolstering the city's reserves, but in the first public discussion of Wolff's proposal, much of the council's attention was on the tax cut.

The measure would shave the tax rate by 2.65 cents to 55.204 cents per $100 of taxable property value, translating into $27 in savings for the average homeowner.

"We have a duty to consider giving back to the taxpayers," Wolff said. "I know that requires belt-tightening on our part."

But if the cut were adopted, Councilman Roger O. Flores said, it could prove "catastrophic" to basic services if the city ever had to weather plunging revenues, such as income from CPS Energy.

He also worried about potential gains in next year's budget.

Flores said constituents have consistently demanded street and drainage improvements, and City Manager Rolando Bono's proposed $1.72 billion budget for 2006 makes headway on that front. It boosts general fund spending by 7.5 percent, with one of the biggest increases showing up in street maintenance.

"These are considerations that over the past 30 years, for one reason or another, have not been taken care of," Flores said.

Wolff is right, anytime there's a surplus, public officials have a duty to consider giving the money back. Right along considering what other programs and departments the city ain't fully fundin'. Hmm, fully funded police force, extra $27 bucks in my pocket... streets you can drive over without purchasing a tank... a refund that won't even fill up my gas tank... Property owners, you decide.