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Matt Ferris vs. the Columbus City Tax Increase

July 8, 2009 at 7:28 am Matt Leave a comment Go to comments

It has become obvious that the elected office holders who endorse of a .5% tax increase in Columbus want opponents to do their job for them by suggesting reasonable budget cuts. Yesterday, Columbus City Council candidate Matt Ferris took on that challenge:

The pro-tax Columbus Dispatch wrote about it today:

He called for freezing city workers’ pay and forcing non-union employees to contribute toward their pensions. He proposed eliminating city subsidies for the arts, for businesses that move Downtown and for promoting Columbus as a convention and tourism destination.

But a majority of his proposed savings would come from unspecified cuts totaling 2.5 percent of all departments’ current budgets. Backers of the tax increase going before voters on Aug. 4 said that would translate into roughly the same level of police and fire layoffs, recreation-center closings and reduced services they’ve been warning about.

“We don’t have a lot of stuff to cut right now besides people,” said Paul Rakosky, who will take over as the city’s finance director next month.

Ferris said an across-the-board cut doesn’t necessarily mean layoffs.

“It means getting efficient,” he said.

Related posts:

  1. Columbus Income Tax Increase
  2. The Other Paper Says “Hallelujah” to Thoughtful Dissent on Proposed Columbus Tax Increase
  3. The (Columbus) Other Paper: My Letter to the Editor

  1. Jack Lundberg
    July 12th, 2009 at 17:59 | #1

    Rakosky is entirely off-base. In point of fact, there is all sorts of fat that can–and should–be cut from the budget be it the current one or any number of those past. When the rate of inflation is perking along at 2-2.5% how then can the City justify increases in expenditures of over 10% annually?

    The City’s most-recent (2008) “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report” (CAFR), for exmaple, clearly demonstrates that neither the Mayor nor Council have done enough to trim expenses. Between 2007 and 2008, “General Government” grew by 10.8%, “Public Service” grew by 10.3%, “Development” increased by 7.8%, “Recreation & Parks” spent 6.2% more and “Public Safety” consumed 10.5% more!! To put the matter plainly, for every $103 the City collected in 2008, they spent $110.22!! I won’t mention how the City’s rainy day fund has been depleted in the meantime.

    The truth of the matter is really quite simple: Neither the Mayor nor City Council have ever had the stomach to demand that City worker’s retirement benefits approach that of private sector workers or be reflective of national norms. There is something seriously out of line when the City contributes, for example, an additional 44.5% over and above a firefighter’s salary and/or 41% above and beyond a police officer’s salary. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Columbus taxpayer’s might also look askance at the statement made by Police Chief Distelzweig on June 17, 2009, when he indicated that “Columbus has the 9th or 10th-largest police department in the country.” The only problem with this is that Columbus is but the country’s 15th-largest city. Thus, it’s safe to conclude that we have a few too many police officer’s given our population or, we’re not nearly as efficient (competent?) in deploying our forces as other cities.

    Additionally, none of the income tax proponents have stepped forward and shared the reality of police and firefighter staffing with the public. In any given year, between 100 and 150 police and an equivalent number of firefighters retire from their respective forces. Making matters worse is that no academy classes exist or are underway for either police or firefighters as those classes have been indefinitely suspended. Thus, regardless of whether or not the income tax proposal is approved August 4 the city will be without a significant number of public safety personnel for at least the near term. Moreover, were we to count a new academy grad as a “replacement”, that grad will likely take several years in order to become a truly competent and capable as compared to his/her predecessor and thus, be genuinely considered a replacement.

    Finally and far more-troubling is that in over 75% of the instances of votes involving determining expenditures, City Council has relied upon “emergency legislation” provisions so as to fast-track projects, thereby avoiding multiple public readings of a particular bill. Doing this effectively eliminates the public from the discussion as well as limits the discourse/debate occurring between Council members. That it is being utilized so frequently is evidence of abuse but more-importantly, effectively disenfranchises city voters.

    In conjunction with the fact that Council agendas are published only three days before Council meeetings, the citizens–and taxpayers–of Columbus have been and remain shut-out from the democratic process. Because of this, Columbus taxpayers should be demanding changes in the manner in which City business is conducted, demanding that they be included in the process, and demanding real accountability from their elected officials.

    A “NO” vote on August 4 should be the first shot across the bow.

  2. Matt
    July 12th, 2009 at 18:03 | #2

    Many fair comments in your 8 paragraphs. thank you.

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