Local government in Delaware County, IN begins yearly tax and spend ritual
Free Press Report
MUNCIE, IN - Millions of dollars in taxes and government spending will be decided over the next few weeks for 2013 in the shadow of a government reform measure that will wipe out executive and legislative governing as citizens know it.
And taxpayers, voters and other citizens have a rare chance to weigh in on most local government spending on Tuesday in a pair of public hearings before Delaware County and Muncie city councils. That also could includes members of the local Tea Party, Good Government, Occupy and other interest groups.
A nearly $50 million county budget that raises about $20 million in property taxes will get public input at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in the commissioners courtroom of the Delaware County Building. And a hearing at 7:30 p.m. in Muncie City Hall auditorium that same day gives people a chance to talk about over $40 million in spending for city government with a $30 million tax levy, Then there's about $16 million more in spending between separate tax districts that run public transportation and sanitation with levies proposed at around $13 million..
Property tax rates for that spending are currently higher than this year based on projected property assessments and corresponding levies.
While city government has a healthy $7 million cash balance, the county's cash balance is only a few million, and there's been enough cash shortfalls to freeze wages and go to a four day work week until recently.
There's been little talk of raises for local government in 2013, given limited revenue and that referendum that proposes to create one political subdivision. Actually, voters are only asked to eliminate the Muncie mayor, Delaware County Commissioners and local city and county councils in favor of a super council and a countywide chief executive that would run local government.
That new model leaves towns and townships intact unless voters want to consolidate those governments like Yorktown did having a council and appointed manager run government with an elected clerk-treasurer.
City Council President Jerry Dishman said he wanted to keep spending and taxes in check despite talk of some raises for public safety and other employees. Mayor Dennis Tyler has secured over $4 million in federal dollars to supplement public safety spending. And there was a healthy cash left by the previous administration to keep city government going for a couple years.
County government is a little different with less federal money to operate basic services, Council President James King, who wants to be a county commissioner recently said he did not want to layoff government workers, although cutting services could be considered.
As always it only takes 10 or more taxpayers to file a petition with the state to object to property tax budgets, And judging from the dozens of property taxes who contest their property assessments, there might be a remonstrance besides enough anti-government voters to impose a new government.
Both Tyler and Todd Donati, president of the board of commissioners, object to the referendum that would end their jobs in a couple years.
But those officials and others know that Yorktown passed its government reform measure by an 85-15 margin without even pushing the merits of less government. National polls show voters generally retain judges or pass propositions by more than a two-thirds margin.
The trick in 2013 budgets and government reform is not to raise taxes, although government besides their community school partners do spend more and raise taxes even with caps put on taxation for homes, businesses, industries and farm ground.
That is hard to do with assessments on homes, businesses and other property constantly going up,
Just ask Scott Snoddy who was waiting outside a hearing room last week after finding his home value was more than twice the market or what he could sell it. Snoddy, a retired bus driver, believed the whole system of property assessment and taxation is flawed given arbitrary values are put in land and buildings even when the economy is down or flat.
The bottom line to any government reform is it still costs as much if not more to continue service at a reasonable cost of living. And since public safety, besides courts and corrections makes up most of local government spending, taxes just keep going up despite surpluses posted locally or by the state.