Taxes, fees, rates or cuts? That is the question
Seven elected officials and seven appointed community members are currently in the throes of deciding the answer to this overriding question and thus the fate of your scarce dollars. One of the most important roles of municipal government is now playing out at a public safety building near year you.
How your dollars are spent is determined by the recommendation of city staff, reviewed by the mentioned committee, and ratified by the City Council. To date, your elected and appointed representatives have met seven times. One more meeting is scheduled before the budget is presented to the council on June 3.
This group of volunteers is taking on this often thankless task because they collectively believe citizen input is important to the process.
What do we believe are essential services of your city government? Should we spend more on roads and sidewalks? Should we spend more on police and the library? What about business promotion and affordable housing? What about planning for replacement of aging infrastructure or the replacement of dated technology? What about any 'fat' that might be expanding city hall's waistline?
The city's proposed 2019/2020 budget, available to you in 178 table-filled pages, seeks to prioritize functions through the assignment of your dollars. My esteemed and highly experienced predecessor, Mayor Bob Andrews, stated that city hall is challenged with providing "health, safety and prosperity."
These are broad categories subject to interpretation that must be defined and funded. One clear lesson: there is always more need than there is money.
Case in point: In 2019/2020 property taxes are expected to raise $5.1 million toward essential public services, which in the general fund total $15.5 million. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, property taxes do not cover the bulk of the costs of running the city. The $10.4 million difference is made up of franchise fees, external contracts, working capital, community development revenue and other fees, fines and taxes.
So, what would you like to see? Where would you like us to spend your money?
This is not exactly the proverbial Introduction to Economics "guns or butter" graph, but it is pretty darn close. Would you like to see better roads, more police, longer library hours, lower rates, lessened fees or (like most of us) all of the above?
Unfortunately, a city's budget (like your own at home) is, as Finance Director Matt Zook noted, like "squeezing a balloon." There is only so much air (or money) in the balloon. If you squeeze for roads, you take from library, and on and on along the spectrum of possible services.
We are your appointed and elected officials. We are charged with squeezing that balloon. If you would like to witness the process in person, this dramatic (well maybe not real dramatic) economic passion play is now headlining at the Newberg Public Safety Building, 401 E. Third St. Next showing will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 21. While this may not be "Avengers: Endgame," it is highly important to the future of our local universe.
Rick Rogers is mayor of Newberg
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