Monday, December 1, 2008

Local Governments talk budget cutting

Louisville has decided to cut some fat out of their budget in order to make up for a revenue shortfall. Lexington is thinking of doing something similar. In both cases, it seems, that they look for the quick fix and not the underlying problems.

The role of government is to do for the populace, things that they cannot do for themselves. Such necessary duties as police protection, fire protection, sanitation (both solid waste and sewers) and transportation maintenance are items that the general population should not do for themselves. No one wants a vigilante force or forces roaming the streets at night and nowhere to be seen in the daytime. Volunteer fire departments work well in the rural areas but not in the urban confines of a metropolitan area. Sanitation and road maintenance would be equally as disastrous, if left to the the individual to take care of. Have you had trouble remembering to take out the garbage?

In tight budgetary times the typical family will cut back on the unnecessary expenses while making sure that the electricity and food are paid for. Governments, likewise, need to delay paying for line items that don't keep the city clean, safe and unobstructed. Things like PDR and some arts or recreation funding should be put on hold until better economic times. PDR alone would save $2 million this year and if no development rights were purchased, then where is the harm, the developers don't have the funds to build right now either.

How about cutting back on the Holiday decorations a little. Do we need to have bigger and flashier decorations than last year? Do we have to emphasize one celebration over all others? We used to have the downtown property owners and merchants do their own decorations, now the city has to have a consistent look for all the downtown district. Where is the diversity that we seek in the rest of our urban dealings?

And not just the winter season, we need to be more frugal for the rest of the year also. Individual neighborhood groups seem to be able to have their own holiday celebrations (4th of July, Memorial and Labor days) so why not let them be held without governmental intervention? I have advocated this before with the Second Sunday events so this is nothing new.

Any time governments find themselves in financial crunch, there are threats of newer, higher taxes (sometimes renamed as fees) which just makes the populace more irate, when they also are in a tight spot. Perhaps now would be a good time to explore new revenue generation techniques like a local sales tax instead of a payroll tax, or split the revenues (a small sales tax and a reduced payroll tax) . In this fashion, locals who earn and spend here will pay for the services rendered here, those who earn there and spend here pay less as do those who earn here and spend there. Families that spend $100 at Aldi's will pay x percent and those who spend $250 at Whole Foods will also pay x percent The fellow who buys a cheap used car and the the one who buys a Cadillac will pay the same percent just not the same amount in taxes. (I know, someone will say that food should be exempt, but the principle is the same)

All this talk of cutting services in these lean budget times only points out that the civic leaders are unwilling to tackle the difficult task of making sure that the city will continue to render the services required (not desired) of them. On this issue Louisville and Lexington, regardless of the size differential, are in the same boat and are both sinking at the same rate.

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