Holding the Line
October 21, 2010 11:46 AM
When I introduced my 2011 operating budget a couple of weeks ago, my goal was to maintain existing services and to try a few new innovative ideas that didn't cost much money. We accomplished all that, and while it required a tax increase that was higher than I would have liked, it is better than the alternative of slashing basic services or damaging our long-term fiscal stability.
From what I've heard so far, most people are accepting of that balance, but they don't want taxes to go much higher. I understand why. Unemployment is still high, state and university employees and retirees took an income hit last year that they haven't recovered from, and Madison incomes are down 2.4%. When you combine proposed property tax increases for schools, Dane County and MATC, it looks like taxes on the average house will go up around $300.
That's a lot to ask of the people who pay the bills. So, I'm asking the City Council to join me in restraining further growth in taxes. As they ponder amendments to my budget, due next Tuesday, I'm asking them to do what I do: work within a set limit. For me, this year that limit was no more than a 5% increase in taxes on the average house. I beat that goal, coming in at 4.8%. That leaves about $300,000 that could be added and still remain under 5%.
What most people seem to want in Madison is balance. A balance between maintaining and maybe even slightly expanding the good services they've come to expect, but also holding the line on tax increases at a time when so many people are finding it hard to pay their bills.