Good evening, folks.
Tonight, at Muncie Central High School, the citizens had the opportunity to listen to the benefits and disadvantages of additional taxes in the form of LOIT (Local Option Income Tax) and COIT (County Option Income Tax) and why this is just a tool and not a fix for our financial problems.
Guest Speaker, Mr. John Stafford, (just got a correction on his name)Director, Community Research Institute at IU-Fort Wayne and a member of the Kernan-Shepard panel had this to say:
Option Income Tax will only bring in an estimated $1,000,000. Wow, you say, that’s a nice chunk of change. Not bad, how are we going to come up with the additional $2,000,000+ needed?
First we should address how we got in this mess. Did you know that Muncie has one of the highest tax rates for second class cities? Why is that? Because, we spend to much. This is always a forgotten part of the equation.
It goes back to many past city council meetings and how the budget shortfall was addressed again and again to the council, our fiscal body. Their first reaction should have been, “what can we do to save money?”. Instead, the concern was for fishing holes, life guards and fireworks. Oh, yes, parking spaces. If the fiscal body does not understand budget shortfall, that is ONE major problem that needs to be addressed NOW!, or you may as well hang it all up.
Mr. Shaffer talked about consolidation. As a matter of fact, when he was introduced by Mr. Riggin as being part of the Kernan-Shepard panel, a “boo” came from the audience. Second major problem, the fear and loathing of any type of consolidation. We witnessed that first hand in July, 2008, when the Modernization and Consolidation was benched by Muncie City Council. It has been reinstated, but at what cost? Instead of being almost a year into the project, we are now nine months behind. We lost precious time on that one. The Muncie City Council must be held accountable and responsible for the delay.
The past commissioners had already started their own “consolidation” in the form of combining the highway and engineering departments, saving the taxpayers $500,000.00/year or roughly 1/2 of what COIT would bring in. You may want to ask yourself where that savings and efficiency is today.
- Why is Muncie’s tax rate so high?
- Why has there been NO effort to do any budget cuts?
- Why was the Modernization and Consolidation effort tabled?
The answer is: until our fiscal bodies can get a grip on reality and work to change how Delaware County operates, we will just slide deeper and deeper into debt.
Yes, Mr. Shaffer threw out the option taxes, he also said it is not the answer, and never will be. Cut spending, begin TRUE consolidation and if neither of these things get us to where we need to be, then our option is a tax. However, we won’t know the answer until our elected officials make an honest and concerted effort in this direction…so far, very few of the elected politicians have been on board.
We must hold city council responsible for the lack of response when it comes to consolidation and modernization and the budget. The citizens worked hard and long, yet we will pay for the inaction. This is one reason why we despise any additional tax. The council had the tools and refused to use them, the council was warned again and again and ignored the signs. We pick up the tab again, in the form of more taxes.