Letter to Editor: Don't Lean on Taxpayers to Fix Roads
Ocean City resident Eric Sauder argues against a special assessment to fund expedited road and drainage repairs.
Who doesn’t want 50 percent more cash?
It was proposed, at the last City Council meeting, to double the amount spent on road repair from $2.5 million a year (the current budgeted amount) to $5 million a year in order to accelerate the process of repairing city streets.
It was also proposed that the extra $2.5 million be funded by a special tax assessment of $125 per household (per year). When pressed on his proposal Councilman Keith Hartzell raised the challenge of finding another way to fund $60 million of road improvements other than through a special tax assessment.
I would have to agree with him, if in fact we needed to raise $60 million. He suggested that we first determine where we’re at with road repairs … what has been done, what remains to be done, and how much it will cost. Raising $60 million (or whatever that number might turn out to be) would be a daunting task for the city. It would in fact necessitate a tax increase. What we’re being told (taxpayers) is that if you want your roads repaired and aren’t willing to wait until the cows come home, YOU can pay for it.
But wait a minute. I thought we were trying to come up with $2.5 million a year and not $60 million. So the question then becomes one of how do you find an additional $2.5 million a year.
That’s a different proposition, isn’t it? So let me ask you. How do you think we could pare $2.5 million from an almost $70 million budget in order to double our investment in road repair? Where would you suggest we could make those cuts? It no longer seems a foregone conclusion that the only way to do it is through raising taxes. We’re talking $2.5 million out of an almost $70 million budget. For this we need to raise taxes?
How many years will property owners have to pay that additional $125 a year in taxes? How much is it going to cost each one of us before it’s said and done? Funding that expenditure (by raising a special tax assessment) will simply give the city another $2.5 million a year in the budget to spend on something else. Are you sure this is a good idea?
I think before you jump in the water screaming, “TAX ME,” you need to think about other ways of getting the job done. Let’s take a look at the budget and find a way to pare that $2.5 million so we can meet that objective. The debt service on $2.5 million at 3 or 4 percent amounts to the annual salary of a single civil service employee. Perhaps as city employees retire, we need to think long and hard about replacing them? And there must be other cost savings that can be realized. Maybe our police officers don’t really need a Tahoe to drive around in. I realize they’re revenue generators for the city, but I’m getting thin-skinned about being pulled over driving to and from work at midnight.
Let’s work the cost side of this, not the revenue side. How are you going to feel when the city makes its next $2.5 million investment in some project like new digs for the Chamber of Commerce or another boardwalk parking lot? Which is more important to you? Paved streets or a parking lot? If the city has money for the one, you’re going to have to cough up the money for the other. Make no mistake about it. Raising a special assessment to do now what this city should have done all along with taxpayer money is not a good idea.
Contrary to what you’re being told, there has got to be another way to raise $2.5 million other than increasing taxes. I find it amusing that when someone finally listens to what the taxpayers are saying, and what they’re saying is “we need road and drainage repairs,” it gets lost in translation somehow and comes out as “tax me.” Make do with what you got. Prioritize how you spend taxpayer money. Adequate investment in our infrastructure has not been made in the past and now we’re paying for it.
Make those investments. But don’t lean on the taxpayer to cover your butt. Our tax rate just went up another 5 percent. We have to live within their means. It’s time for the city to do the same.