Fiscal cliff or no fiscal cliff, reeling in federal spending isn’t going to make a difference, you’re still getting stuck with the bill. No matter what the feds do to tax the rich, or keep the Bush tax cuts in place, local governments have been squeezed at both ends.
Federal dollars from “the stimulus” are drying up, state dollars were cut, then cut again and property tax collections are still lagging thanks to the drops in property values due to the “too big to fail” failures of the wizards of Wall Street. Even sales tax revenues have dropped most places thanks to on-line retailers not charging sales tax in states where they don’t have a physical presence (Amazon doesn’t charge sales tax in Ohio for instance). And, despite cuts to your public safety forces, services and trying to squeeze every last dollar of savings, the local governments are still hurting. Schools can’t pass levies and now parents are having to pay for extra-curricular activities and maybe are even driving their kids to school.
Now, we’re seeing communities like Riverside discounting the tax credit on income taxes collected earned outside Riverside. Without a public vote, the Riverside Council just made the effective income tax rate on their residents who work in Dayton 3% and if they work in Oakwood, 3.25%. Watch as other communities follow suit. Beavercreek is considering its first income tax– which will supposedly be countered by some discounts in property taxes, and even Oakwood is considering some changes, because they are going to lose millions they’ve counted on in the past, disappearing due to the repeal of the estate tax.
Since none of these taxing districts consider themselves as additional overhead- every single one of them believes that their little government is worthy of existence despite the fact that most citizens couldn’t name more than half the names of their council if they were asked.
Already a group is working to place the issue on the ballot in Riverside. Of course, since Riverside is run with a modern charter, their residents, unlike Dayton, can actually petition their government:
According to the Montgomery County Board of Elections, 638 signatures are required, which is 10 percent of the votes cast for the last governor’s race in 2010.
In Dayton, it would take almost 14,000 signatures to put it on the ballot- which is about half of the turnout in the last governors’ race. It takes almost that many signatures just to run for Commission in Dayton.
So, no matter what you think of Congress, maybe, we should start looking locally at redundancy and waste in local government. Waste like paying Commissioner Lovelace until he has his 20 years in for retirement, despite his missing almost a year of work. Waste like paying to tear down houses that we don’t own, because we’re too scared to hand the bill back to the owners. Waste like having so many councils, commissions and school boards in a county that’s been staying the same population for the last 30 years but has allowed sprawl that’s costing us a fortune. Or, waste like buying buildings that have no public purpose, or funding private businesses with tax dollars based on how much money they donated to the politicians’ campaigns.
A government by the people, for the people wouldn’t keep growing beyond our ability to pay for it. It’s time to rightsize the patchwork of local governments, school boards, public safety and tax districts into a much simpler, more efficient system. Call it regionalization or reinventing government, but it’s an idea that we can’t ignore anymore.
Not unless you want to keep getting stuck with the bill. Merry Christmas.