‘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.
If you have been following the City of Muncie’s financials, a shorted till will be of no surprise. If not, you may find your paycheck missing a few pennies as the rush to fill the cash register gets underway. Yes, folks, the LOIT has entered the minds of our elected officials. L-O-I-T (Local Option Income Tax) if passed by the City of Muncie, digs into the pocketbooks of every working stiff in Delaware County. I believed it was just a matter of time before it was introduced and approved.
I’m not going to spend much time discussing the merits or pitfalls of LOIT today. Instead, I am offering two articles and an opinion piece for your reading pleasure.
The first article is the introduction of the tax, setting the tone. The second, a recap of the first and lastly a column by a local journalist (saved the best for last). Perhaps after reading, you’ll get a better understanding.
Here’s a side note: A few months ago I crossed paths with columnist Larry Riley and the chit-chat soon turned to the SAFER grant. I asked if he knew the status. Nope.
Next question, if the grant is not renewed, how would the shortfall be met? Larry responded (much to what he penned) – Mayor Tyler stated there would be enough money to cover the fire department.
The previous mayor, McShurley, was asked the question in 2011 and her answer much the same. If the SAFER grant did not come through, there would still be money to maintain the fire department. Then she said good-bye and left the city with over $7 million operating balance.
The real kicker is after Mayor Tyler said the property tax revenue was down and the LOIT tax is needed for fire safety and to shore up the coffers of Economic Development Tax Revenue (EDIT) he proposed an additional amount of spending nearing $50 million.
Here’s the short of it all.
1.) Mayor Tyler – the city would have enough money for the fire department. Never a word to the contrary.
2.) Mayor Tyler – the tax revenue is down and will need to pass LOIT to maintain the fire department and EDIT funding.
3.) Mayor Tyler – reveals the $48 million canal project.
Chew on it a while…
Bus stop: Why and when issue was really decided
Though I’m writing these words prior to last night’s school board meeting, one doesn’t need a lot of tea leaves to divine the outcome.
School officials have made clear they want more money from somebody and busing is the hostage.
Taxpayers wouldn’t agree to give them more taxes in a 2012 referendum by a nearly 2-1 margin.
Creditors worried about repayment of debt successfully lobbied the legislature to make sure they won’t have to part with any money they’re owed.
So now the 20 percent or so of school boards across Indiana that can’t handle their finances appear to be collectively trying to tell the General Assembly that they’ll end busing if they don’t get more money. Muncie Star Press 7-14-15
Read the full column here.
‘Morning to the good people of Indiana. Been a long time since the last Saturday rambling was posted. It certainly isn’t for lack of subject matter, plenty of fodder to write on. Time’s a wasting, so let’s get to the down and dirties.
For those seeking further information about your local Tax Increment Financing (TIF) you will find a wealth of data on the Indiana Transparency Portal. Here you can find revenues, expenditures, assessed valuation, businesses and a whole bunch more.
Say what you will about our State, placing this data in the hands of the public is an awesome step on the part of our government.
At the onset of the portal, it was clumsy, hard to navigate and limited information. Responding to public input, the site has come a long way.
Take a gander.