Friday, July 23, 2010

Readers Respond

In my July Dallas Morning News column I propose a tax increase as a means of addressing some of our city's budget woes.

"If Dallas' budget were a severely wounded patient and City Manager Mary Suhm a surgeon, those screams coming from the operating room would be due to amputations performed without the benefit of anesthesia. Even though she's pared a $130 million budget shortfall to just below $19 million, the reductions still necessary are approaching the point of cutting fat and muscle and sawing too close to bone for comfort..."

"The time has come to stop delaying the inevitable and include a tax increase in this budget."

"No one likes more taxes, but this is the only way to avoid reductions so drastic that they will eventually diminish the quality of life for all residents. Continual cuts initially hurt those who are most vulnerable: youth, their families and senior adults in low-income communities. These are our residents most dependent on parks, libraries and recreation centers as well as on public safety and code enforcement. But make no mistake; it won't be long before we all feel the pain."

"Far too many of us, consciously or unconsciously, have fallen prey to the belief that the quality of our collective lives can be maintained and improved without paying for it. To varying degrees, we are all culpable in this gross miscalculation."

You can read the full column here. It was linked to a couple of other DMN blogs that you can read here and here.

The responses (which come from the online column and the blogs to which it was linked, as well as responses from social media) were quite interesting, somewhat revealing and not necessarily surprising...

'David' says...

"I worked for the company that provided Desk side Support and hardware repairs for the city. When we started the contract in April of 2006 there was approximate 14 of use in various departments and locations. As of today after 2 cuts the number is closer to 4. I have spent time in the police dept. fire/rescue, city hall and library. At this time there are NO assigned techs in the Central Library. There use to be 3 of us. Up until a few weeks ago there was 1 remaining. Believe me with upwards of 700 pc's in the library system Central and over 26 branchs There will be hardware and software failures. There will be hardware sitting idle waiting for repairs and software correction. I think you get the picture. The city has fumbled the situation, I hate increased taxes to but there comes a point when the obvious must be dealt with. I'm not a citizen of the city of Dallas but I saw this train wreck coming from within and knew there was NO easy fix..."

"...I know the phrase "Tax Increase" is seen as a political poison pill. And I'm against big government, over spending and wasteful spending (city hotel!). But there comes a point in management where you must consider your actions. Are they helping the problem or have you crossed the line and your blood letting!"

Responding on the online version of the paper, 'Nothing’s free' says…

"I agree with you rev., but in order to do so I think we should raise the taxable values of all the South Dallas properties about 500% in order for south Dallas to contribute equitably to the cost of services that you want in your part of town."

"I live in north Dallas and am tired of seeing my taxes increase in order to pay for the clean up of south Dallas."

"You are right reverend
[sic], just make sure that you pay your share."

Why the assumption that people in the south don't pay their 'share'? And besides, I don't know when 'Nothing's free' moved to Dallas, but north Dallas' growth was paid for by disinvestment in southern Dallas. Taxes are higher in north Dallas because of underdevelopment in the southern part of the city. How much genius does it take realize that public investment in the sector of the city that is 80% which remains underdevelop, spreads the tax burden throughout the city?

'Nemisis' says…

"I doubt that the Reverend Britt would support removing the tax exemption for religious institutions. How about a taxing churches and tying the revenues to the libraries, swimming pools, and human services (shelters food kitchens etc.)? And what about the objection to the proposed vote in November to remove the dry areas for liquor sales (that would raise revenue)? Oh they are against those!"

"Or how about having the appraisal district raise the property values 10 percent for the southern sector as has occurred EVERY YEAR here in my neighborhood (over 10 percent limit per year by law). Hell the city could not even live with those increases. Perhaps their (city betters) taxes should be raised by increasing the valuation of their homes too and removing their homestead exemptions."

I would be for taxing church property, if it means that religious bodies can have greater political engagement. And I'm sure 'Nemises' doesn't want that. Again, if the writer lives north of the Trinity River (or I30, depending on how where you define the divide), it wouldn't be happening if there were not greater, more substantive investment in southern Dallas.

And, I'm not so sure about the liquor issue. It's one way of breaking up the concentration of liquor related businesses in the south Dallas. Currently, I've not made up my mind. I'll let you know what I decide and why should this actually get on the ballot.

'Mike 1111' writes…

"We do understand we can't maintain the quality of our lives without paying for it and have decided to reduce the quality of our lives. It's our choice. When things get better, we'll increase the quality. I've done the same with my own affairs. Why shouldn't I expect the city to do the same?"

'Casey' is supportive…

"I'm with you, Rev!"

TexasWillie gripes...

"Not a tax payer and yet he wants me to pay more in taxes. Let's make another proposal---tax the church property and all those "non-profits" run by the church."

I'm wondering where he gets the idea I don't pay taxes? EVERYONE pays taxes! In Texas there are property taxes, sales taxes and fees (taxes) - we don't have a state or city income tax. I pay all of them.

And Central Dallas Ministries is not a 'non-profit run by a church'. Our CFO sent us a report recently outlining the percentage of funds received from churches: it was less than 2% of our budget.

Dochopper says...

"And checking with the Dallas County Appraisal District The Good Reverend is not a Dallas County property Owner so a TAX INCREASE will be fine by him!"

Sorry 'Dochopper', you must be looking for the wrong 'Good Reverend'...I've lived in Dallas all my life and I'm a homeowner

From 'Oak Cliff Mom'...

"I am not paying for any more taxes as long as city agencies such as DHA and MDHA try to ruin neighborhoods by moving mentally ill homeless people into stable communities."

Another Dallasite who believes in ending homelessness in the abstract...

Thanks to all (even all of these) for taking the time to read and respond!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I say that the budget should be revised to fit the available funds. After all, the budget is a method of planning and controlling expenditures. Make whatever cuts in spending are necessary for the spending to equal the available tax revenue. Its not that hard to understand. Cuts services that are non-essential. Reduce the number of city employees, programs and entitlements. Prioritize !
Fiscal restraint should be the norm and not the exception.