Friday, May 02, 2008

Miles with the millage rate

I understand there's a lot of frustration involving the Athens-Clarke County Commission's upcoming vote to raise the millage rate (a quick glance at today's editorial page at the Athens Banner-Herald reveals that), particularly since we're getting bogged down in a recession and costs for fuel and food are rising. The economic situation isn't pretty by any means, and an increase in the property tax, however modest, is never a welcome thing.

Still, I'm not sure what else can be done. And by that I mean, the commission and the staff have spent the past few months scouring the budget for places to trim costs and save money, but the reality is that those rising costs for fuel impact every facet of the government to do business and, also forgotten in this, it impacts the the quality of life of the employees of the city government.

While I might suggest something like only a two percent cost of living raise rather than a three percent one and urge the commission to evaluate if there are positions there to cut, it's also important to note that all of these 'pet projects' mentioned on the letters to the editor aren't really things that can be cut. We still need to fund the jail and sheriff's department and water department and planning department and so forth and so forth.

12 Comments:

Blogger hillary said...

Thank you, Johnathan. I'm glad I'm not the only person who feels this way. When people point to waste, they're pointing to things like ridiculous fire stations, which aren't funded by the same stuff anyway and result from the restrictions placed on SPLOST money. I am totally in favor of the local government raising taxes. As stated a kabillion times, I believe property tax should, to some extent, be based on income so that poor folks in gentrifying neighborhoods don't get taxed out of their homes, but I do believe in property taxes and I don't think the ACC government is spending them on paving the streets with gold.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Property taxes are the government's way of demonstrating that, in reality, a man's home is really the government's castle, not his own. Just as income taxes are the government's way of reaffirming that the fruits of your labor aren't your fruits (although the sweat of your brow most certainly is your sweat).

Just another way for someone who didn't earn what you earned to stake a claim on your earnings. It's thievery. State-sanctioned thievery.

Personally, I'd rather be robbed by a man in a mask. At least there is some honor among thieves.

Reggie

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you seriously think there is no waste in the ACC government?

Every bureaucracy, whether public or private, has unproductive and overpaid people simply doing time. The only difference is that competition minimizes waste in the for profit market sector, whereas governments tend to just keep raising taxes.

In an economic downturn private firms cut staff, demand more from the employees they retain, and sometimes ask people to do more work for less money. The government should do the same.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The only difference is that competition minimizes waste in the for profit market sector"

Do you seriously believe this? And I suppose the corporate executives who get paid $80m while their companies are going into the ground is an example of prudent fiscal management in the private sector?

4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You somehow manage to misread what I wrote, confound two different phenomena, and buttress my thesis in one sentence.

There is certainly a need to reform governance rules so that corporate boards have both the incentive and the ability to reign in runaway executive pay. That's not the topic under discussion. The topic, I thought, was excess spending in a bureaucracy.

As I said -- and as you confirm with your example -- competition tends to weed out waste in for profit bureaucracies (i.e the firm you mention is "failing"). Kmart going out of business in the face of a more efficient Walmart bureaucracy is the example I think you are looking for.

On the other hand very few governments "fail" in the sense that they go out of business. They just raise taxes.
________________________
"And I suppose the corporate executives who get paid $80m while their companies are going into the ground is an example of prudent fiscal management in the private sector?"

5:36 PM  
Blogger hillary said...

I'm sure there is some waste. It would be impossible for there not to be. But where is it and can you root it out?

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As I said -- and as you confirm with your example -- competition tends to weed out waste in for profit bureaucracies (i.e the firm you mention is "failing")."

Yeah, and sometimes governments go bankrupt. So what's your point?

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm sure there is some waste. It would be impossible for there not to be."

This gets at the heart of the matter. Anyone who assumes that there is no waste, and who assumes that all taxes are utilized for vital public services, misunderstands the nature of bureaucracies.

Of course there is waste, and an economic downturn should be a catalyst to cut some of that waste. Almost every private business I know of has cut staff and/or wages in the past year. And everywhere I look around the NEGA region local governments are doing the opposite -- taxes and spending are going up.

"But where is it and can you root it out?"

Finding precise areas where resources are wasted is a very difficult task for an "outsider". But the department and shift managers know where the fat is, since they are the people who've added the fat in the first place (to lessen their workload and/or to expand their influence). Cut their budget and the fat will go.

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Umm... why don't you link to a local government that's gone bankrupt sometime in the past 10 years? If you can find one, which I doubt, compare that to the number of failed businesses in the same period.

Apples: Orangutans.

That mode of discourse seems to be your specialty. So on second thought don't bother. I've had enough of the FAQ monkey business.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"why don't you link to a local government that's gone bankrupt sometime in the past 10 years"

Um, admitedly not in the past 10 years, but how about NYC in the 1970s for starters? Then we can move onto the City of Detroit, if you like (in the hole for about $350m or so 2 or 3 years ago). And Vallejo, CA. Then there's Orange County, CA. Oh, and how about San Diego? Want some more?

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Finding precise areas where resources are wasted is a very difficult task for an "outsider"."

So, in other words, you're just going on belief rather than facts? Not a good place to begin for an argument, don't you think?

11:50 PM  
Blogger Nicki said...

Almost every private business I know of has cut staff and/or wages in the past year. And everywhere I look around the NEGA region local governments are doing the opposite -- taxes and spending are going up.

This statement could just as easily read "the economy is poor, so a greater burden falls on government." Just sayin'

10:14 AM  

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