Before raising taxes, Dayton needs a plan

Generally, when you raise prices on a product, you offer something extra. Bigger, better, new and improved. Yet, Dayton is seriously considering raising income taxes as a solution to years of mismanagement.

As the population has shrunk, they’ve added employees in all the wrong places- to slap Band-Aids on the bullet wound that busing inflicted on our city. We tried like crazy to ignore the elephant in the living room. And now, nearly 40 years later- we’re just starting to make serious efforts at fixing the problems (without straight up admitting what they were- yes, our schools sucked, we’re fixing it).

Our divisions of jurisdictions make it too easy to pick and choose, and release anyone from responsibility. Who do you blame- school boards, superintendents, parents of poor kids, the judge, the “white flight,” the unions- or the Mayor and the Commission, the City Manager, the police chief, the unions? Or, do you just get fed up and move away?

There is zero accountability here. There is also zero leadership. All we do is form committees, task forces and ask for a plan. Then again- we have no leader to own the plan, and no action ever gets taken.

Then we get subjected to banal babbling by an editor at a “newspaper” that can barely write a story worth reading- (except when you let your top sports writer take on something like a sailor’s recollection of a kamikaze attack)

In talking about the proposed tax increase, Ellen Belcher says:

Though the city certainly has its advantages, it struggles mightily to recruit new businesses and new residents. Exactly how much the income tax figures into prospects’ considerations is hard to quantify. But it certainly isn’t irrelevant; and having the distinction of a tax rate that’s higher than almost every other community in the region can’t be a good thing….

Citizens aren’t public administrators. Many can’t point to specific ways of doing business that will markedly change Dayton’s costs, even though they’re sure that there must be some.

via Editorial: Tax increase is hard sell in Dayton | A Matter of Opinion.

Really, Ellen- what are the “advantages”? And, what makes you qualified to judge candidates? You never asked what strategies each candidate would use to “markedly change Dayton’s costs” in your endorsement interviews?

Asking to raise taxes to maintain the same services, the ones that haven’t been working so far, is just another nail in an already well constructed coffin. In fact, there aren’t any additional services or promises the current crew running our city could make that would give any voter hope that raising the taxes will somehow change the direction the City is headed. That makes this discussion moot.

So, how should they ask for more taxes? Get ready for a real alternative to discuss:

Shrink the city

We’ll raise taxes, and bring in some large cash payments to consolidate and improve our core:  by promising to either sell off assets- say, offer to hand over the parts of Dayton that are in Huber Heights, Riverside or Harrison Twp. school districts to those communities- in exchange for those communities passing bonds to pay us a part of the future income tax revenue that is generated- giving us cash now- and a smaller footprint to manage. Sell off the non-contiguous parts of Dayton as well- like the airports- and the “enterprise zones” to either regional entities like the county or the “booming” burbs, in exchange for cash now.

Sitting with cash in the hand- we have to make a decision- consolidate some more- by using this money to re-balance our city, moving people from sparsely populated or run down neighborhoods into strong ones- then cut services and our service area to these old areas- until we’ve got our core neighborhoods as healthy as possible.

Change the way we do business in the city

Or we can take the blighted communities and create free-for-all zoning, and offer every single piece of property that the city already owns, on the market at bargain rates, as long as the buyer makes a commitment to occupy the property and pay at least a set income tax with new residents only. The property values for the taxing purposes are the purchase price- however the income tax requirement must be met- or the property is taken back and resold. If it isn’t new residents moving in- the property tax is set normally.

The object is to bring in additional income tax payers, plain and simple. All increases in tax revenue would be used to provide the highest quality government services: ie police, fire, water, sewer, trash- at the lowest price. There will be a guarantee of zero expense on marketing, “economic development” or other non-essential government services.

Grow the city

The gutsy move is to somehow grow the city. First would be to look at adjoining townships. Harrison, Jefferson (and there probably is another one or two) and try to acquire them. While the residents may not want to pay a higher income tax- we’re already providing some of their services. The question is- how are we going to propose our change in the way we do business that they’d be willing to give up their current small government for something bigger? This is where the city has failed. Had we been doing things right- this shouldn’t be a hard sell. Ask the average person in Jefferson Township if they’d like to be a part of Kettering- and they’d probably say yes. Say Dayton- and they’d think you were crazy. Operationally- we’d need to clean house and rebuild the way Dayton works- to instill and inspire confidence enough that this would be an option. Unfortunately- we don’t elect the kinds of leadership that can think like this. Typically in a bad market- is when great companies grow the most. Their value increases as they snatch up the weak. In a bad market- the weak- typically do what Dayton is thinking of doing- delaying bankruptcy as long as possible.

Are these fully fleshed out ideas- no. I’m sharing them with you as discussion points to give direction to the people “in charge.” The one thing that is for sure- with business as usual there is no point in accepting a tax hike, unless they are ready to give up.

If anything, we need to lower the tax rate and offer more opportunity for investment- but without confidence in a plan on where we’re headed, investment won’t come- no matter how much money you throw at potential investors.

Your thoughts?

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