For your reading pleasure, the 2016 Muncie City Budget Summary. You may notice the page numbering is off. The blank pages have been removed, making printing of the summary easier on your printer ink.
Source: Indiana Transparency Portal
After Mayor Tyler passed the 43% income tax, the saga continues
The City applied for State funds of $48 million to build a downtown walkway, apartments etc. There is no guarantee the city will get any funds.
The city is going ahead with the project even though it has no funding in place. The city hired an outside consulting firm to find the money and the city will pay $6,000 a month for the service.
However, the contract is sealed, so no one is allowed to know how the $6,000/month of taxpayer’s money will be used.
Can we say transparency?
The mayor is embarking on a $48 million project although he doesn’t know how it will be paid for, if the bank will loan the money, how much revenue it will bring into the city or how much it will cost taxpayers.
This will put the city at $112 million dollars in debt. We couldn’t fund $2.5 million without raising taxes, but we can afford more debt?
Oh, and although the city was supposed to include long-term maintenance costs, it was barely mentioned.
This area is known for building, but not for maintaining. Some examples: streets, swimming pool, park buildings, city hall, jail, skating rink, parking garage. All built but soon no money available to keep in good repair.
Are we destined for a lifetime of debt?
‘Morning to the good people of the city. Now that the pesky Lowering Our Income Tax has been approved by the Mayor of Muncie and the Muncie City Council in a record 14 days, it’s time to move on to what we may expect in the next four years.
Yes, the Mayor of Muncie, after spending nearly four years telling the unsuspecting public the city was financially stable and there would be no additional taxes, has passed a 43% income tax. Mayor Tyler said even without the SAFER grant, the city still had the money to fund the Muncie Fire Department. However, on September 1st, 2015, the paper reported Mayor Tyler was going to propose the Local Option Income Tax. 14 days later it was approved by Muncie City Council. That’s speedy.
Mayor Tyler’s excuse to remove $8 million dollars from your wallet was none other then “Property Tax Caps”. Yet, the Mayor has been instrumental in indebting us to the tune of nearly $65 million, increasing the budget yearly, spending more than it takes in and increasing the city tax levy until almost every property in Muncie has reached that cap.
Be honest, does that sound like the financial problems stem from the tax caps or from a government that enjoys spending money? I suppose if the tax caps were a legitimate concern, instead of a worn out excuse, the Mayor and the City Council would have been more aware of their financial limitations. It never even crossed their minds.
City Council crafted a budget in 2012, again in 2013, another budget in 2014 and recently 2015. Despite having every financial document in their possession, no one noticed the “Tax Caps” problem? None of them noticed negative balances? None of them saw the revenue decreases?
Maybe the problem isn’t the tax caps at all. Instead, it’s a convenient excuse which sits on the financial shelf collecting dust until it’s needed.
The next four years is when the rubber meets the road. I am pretty sure, the city has tapped all the available tax sources. Any additional property taxes generated from TIF district will go to pay the bond payments. The hope is all the building and the new hotel will generate a ton of convention center traffic. We’ll be finding people who want to buy the properties which have sat vacant for years, businesses looking to relocate will gravitate to Muncie.
The truth is, there is no wiggle room left.
Well, we still have fees. There is no cap on fees. Mayor Tyler asked EMS to increase their ambulance fees $100 and the additional revenue given to the city. That was a no go. The animal shelter recently began charging a fee for animals surrendered. How about raising the Prairie Creek dock fees, increasing camping rates, daily fishing passes? Will Heekin Park see an increase in cabin rental, or entrance fees and food prices raised at Tuhey Pool?
If the Village Apartments get sold, will this void the 10-year tax abatement with a new owner? How about the $10,000 in unpaid property taxes for a new business, will that be paid back to the city if it never opens? Can we start holding track meets at the old Wilson school? The city owns the track now and perhaps we could rent it out.
Or maybe we can take a page out of the previous budget cutting the council employed. We could shut down the animal shelter, turn off 1/2 of the city street lights, fire 12 people, reduce police fuel, remove Tuhey Pool utilities from the budget, and as a very last resort, take away the mayor’s copier. We couldn’t afford the copier or Channel 60 in 2011, we may just need to do without in 2016.
When Mayor Tyler announced his re-election bid, he was quoted “I will never lie to you.”
In light of the recent adoption of Local Option Income Tax (LOIT), this may be the perfect time to examine the fiscal health of our city. The report covers 2013 and 2014 and does a comparison between the two years. Being an informed citizen is a good thing, it’s hard to pull the wool over eyes that see.
In addition, knowledge is a tool to prepare for events which can affect a lifestyle. Lowering Your Income Tax (LOIT) which was first mentioned by the Muncie mayor and adopted 14 days later by Muncie City Council is one such thing. Two weeks is barely enough time to get the information out to the masses.
One interesting aspect is the information on the city revenue has been in the hands of nine city council members, one mayor and one controller for three years. Yet, there was never a word said at council meetings, in the newspaper or during State of the City addresses. It was all puppy dogs and happiness.
In the ranks of the people, the concern about the finances was growing. How in the world is the city paying for all this? No one knew. None of this has taken us off guard, seeing it coming down the pike. Interesting the very ones with information at their fingertips either never saw it (odd) or ignored it (likely).
Do need to recognize the speed in which the city racked up $65 million in debt as well as the lightening speed in which a tax was imposed upon every working stiff.
Please feel free to take a look at the fiscal health report. You will find in nearly every category a decrease in revenue and an increase in expenditures. An increase in government owned acreage, an increase in TIF, an increase in local taxes. It’s business as usual.
Predicted in 2011, came true in 2015
In record time, may be a first, the Muncie City Council passed Local Option Income tax citing the decrease in property taxes. Despite Mayor Tyler’s belief there was enough money should the SAFER grant of $2.5 million/year not be awarded. He was adamant…NO LOIT.
The grant was denied- now there isn’t enough to fund public safety. Not enough to fund Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT), it appears. Yet, we were assured there was enough money with or without the grant.
The question is really, how did nine council members and one mayor not notice the decrease in property taxes for three years? I mean, the council works on a budget yearly, the mayor reviews it. So, let’s say they did see the decrease, but felt confident enough to rubber stamp every request be it from the mayor, department heads or the director of Muncie Redevelopment? (Both Gregory and Polk did question at times.)
Recently, Mayor Tyler said it wasn’t the council’s fault it was the property tax caps. Yet, despite the obvious decrease, it never crossed their minds to say no? It didn’t raise a red flag back in 2012? Why the sudden concern? In a span of two weeks the city realized it couldn’t afford public safety, held a public hearing and voted yes to raise your income tax 43%.
Let’s pull out the old excuse…Property Tax Caps. Yet, if caps are the reason, and the elected officials use as en excuse all the time, why do they spend like there are no caps in place? Imagine the possibilites if there were no caps. Nothing at all to reign in their spending. Because the city passed the 2007 budget with increased property taxes and spending, they themselves ushered in the push for caps. We seem to forget our 2006 pay 2007 tax bills. But, I digress…
Why were they so quiet for so many years when the figures were staring them smack dab in the face? Why didn’t the mayor and council inform the public? Did the controller send out smoke signals to the mayor or the council? Do we pay the council members a salary of $15,000 per year to withhold information that affects citizens? Looks like.
Not only do we have an additional tax, we are currently racing to a total debt of $65 million. And this only if we never borrow another penny. So we have graced the citizens with additional taxes and additional debt.
It’s interesting to note, property taxes only bring in about 10-15% of the total revenue (roughly). Sadly, no one seemed the least bit concerned about the renewal of the SAFER grant and their lack of concern gave the impression it was all under control. After all, we’re building canals, buying properties, forgiving property taxes, expanding TIF districts. We are so prosperous, we can’t even fund public safety without additional taxes. The appearance of prosperity is all paid for with borrowed money.
Some watched with concern, wanting to believe Mayor Tyler’s promises. We followed the revenue, and best as possible, the expenditures and found the figures to be disconcerting. As far back as 2011, it was predicted Tyler would move to pass LOIT and the council candidates would vote to approve. This is simply how they have always operated.
Below you will find the financials of the city. I would like you to specifically look at 2011 property tax draw and compare it to the 2012 tax draw. Nary a word to the unsuspecting citizens who cast a vote to keep them in office. You would think the council would feel some obligation to those who trusted these candidates enough to secure their seats.
To put it in perspective, the amount of property taxes received for the General fund only:
2011 – $17,380,388
2012 – $13,708,276
2013 – $14,739,837
2014 – $14,560,426
The total amount of revenue including grants, fees, local, State and Federal taxes etc. The City of Muncie received:
2011 – $90,393,089
2013 – $100,696,634
2014 – $101,147,218
Source: Indiana Transparency Portal Report Builder: Government Financial and Tax Reports