This article in the Columbus Dispatch outlines a fascinating storyline that is guaranteed to recur in community after community throughout Ohio in the next few months.
Essentially, Ohio is actually seeing its tax revenues tick upwards, but, according to many local officials, they are simply horrified that those dramatic cuts that are pending in the state budget will offset those gains. While tax increases at the local level are not explicitly mentioned, one need not be clairvoyant to imagine what will likely be attempted in the future.
Check this part out,
“Columbus and the area’s most-populous counties are collecting more taxes as the private sector recovers.
But “the economic recovery is not enough to cover the loss of state support” to local governments, Franklin County Administrator Don Brown said. “We’ll see no growth. We’ll actually have to cover the loss by trimming the budget and services.”
Columbus City Auditor Hugh J. Dorrian sees the same trend: “Things are fine this year,” he said. “We’ve got a significant problem next year already starting.”
He’s predicting that Columbus could end the year with $26.3 million more in income-tax collections than in 2010, a 5.5 percent increase. But Dorrian is telling the mayor and the City Council not to spend that money.”
Well, at least the Columbus Auditor is suggesting the city act prudently by not spending the “extra dough” and Franklin County is not laying the groundwork for a tax hike (…yet). Although, its hard to dismiss the recent increases in Columbus area residents’ water bills as anything other than a hidden tax hike. So maybe that “prudence” isn’t quite what its cracked up to be…
At any rate, doesn’t the fact that this conversation is even happening strike some as a troubling sign of where we’ve come to?
Rather than try to shift blame to the state while wringing their hands, wouldn’t local officials do better to continue examining how they do business? Plowing more money in to antiquated ways of doing business is not a recipe for future prosperity.
While there continues to be much debate over the dreaded “c-word”, consolidation, now is the time to investigate this. Maybe it will work in some cases and not others, but the time for thinking through how local governments are organized is here.
An uptick in tax revenue, especially one that may well be temporary given the current stagnation of the national economy, should not be an excuse to avoid thinking through the implications of the future. It should simply be something local governments prudently manage for the present and future benefit of their bosses- the voting public.