Wells Hallmark
Opinion

My Side of the Fencepost

Two sides to the budgeting coin

by Jim Dickerson

The budget-making process is one of the more interesting aspects of local government, but as I’ve learned through many years of covering budget hearings — they attract very little public participation.

It could be that we just like our easy chairs too much, or it could be because we need the rest from our busy work schedules.

In any case, there is usually very small attendance at budget hearings. And it’s too bad, because these hearings can be educational. The current string of budget hearings fits that description.

This year, according to the proposed budgets we published last week, property tax revenues will be increasing substantially for the county, city and Boone Central Schools.

As also previously reported, valuations are going up substantially for all three governmental subdivisions, ranging from 17.9 percent for the county to 22 percent for the school district and 97 percent for the City of Albion. Much of that valuation increase comes from the ethanol plant personal property, and the gains will be reduced quickly over the next five years by depreciation of that personal property.

But not all of the valuation increase is coming from the ethanol plant. A share of it comes from various farms, ranches, businesses and individuals.

The county budget, approved Monday, includes a $383,598 increase in property tax revenue — yet the tax rate will decline by a fraction.

The city’s proposed budget (hearing held Tuesday night) increases property tax revenue by $208,428 while maintaining the same tax rate as the past four years.

Boone Central School District’s proposed tax levy will decline by about 3.3 cents for 2008-09, but the school district will still be increasing its total tax revenues by $827,494 as compared to last year.

Now, I’m not saying that there is no justification for those revenue increases. It takes money to accomplish things like infrastructure and facility improvements, and to improve government services. There are reasonable arguments in favor of increasing revenues while the opportunity exists, but there is another side of that coin.

I really haven’t heard yet from many taxpayers who might want to say: “Hey, wait a minute! How about more of a break for us taxpayers while the opportunity exists?”

There’s room for that kind of argument, too.

 

Some questions for T. Boone

 

With debate well underway on the T. Boone Pickens plan for energy independence, we need to have much more discussion on the obvious issues: How, and at what cost, does America build a practical network of fueling stations to provide the compressed natural gas to power the majority of our vehicles? Compressed natural gas is cheaper than gasoline, but will it be practical to convert existing vehicles to use that fuel source? How long will it take to accomplish these changes, and at what cost?