By Jack Minor—
The Greeley City Council is pushing new tax increases that they say are necessary to pay for roads, but there are some questions I would like everyone who supports tax increases to answer for me.
Residents are being asked to vote on a pair of amendments, 2A and 2B. Back in 1990 residents voted to place a tax on groceries to maintain roads and parks. Since the tax sunsets every five years, the city is asking residents to reauthorize the tax. In addition, they are being asked to raise sales and use taxes on all other purchases by 0.65%.
In a recent op-ed for the Tribune the city council made an alarmist claim that the tax increases are necessary because the city cannot keep up with the required maintenance, blaming it on the population increase of the past few years. Officials claim that with the population now exceeding 100,000 these new residents “expect a high level of services from their city.”
While I will be the first to admit that I hate potholes and like nice roads as much as the next guy there are a few questions I would like answered before I can be persuaded to agree to allowing you to take more money out of my pocket.
The Gazette reported in 2012 that food stamp recipients are exempt from the food tax. At the time of the article Evans told the Gazette that in 2011 it lost $154,731 in sales tax revenue due to food stamp usage. Greeley had no idea how much it lost as they did not itemize food stamp sales.
The question I have is, why should I approve a tax to help pay for roads that everyone drives but only applies to some of us who while others pay nothing, despite buying the exact same grocery items?
If you want me to agree to let you take my hard earned money to do my part to ensure good roads then it seems fair that everyone should be subject to the same tax. Any type of exemption is not fair. If you buy food and drive on Greeley streets than you should have to pay your fair share just like anyone else.
The next question I have is why are the increases even necessary. The city claims that “with the city’s growth, the maintenance needs have outpaced the resources to such a high degree that cutting other services in the budget would mean breaking the commitment to provide those services. They told us that Greeley residents deserve the high quality of service they now receive AND they also deserve good roads.”
While that may sound reasonable, those of us who have lived here most of our lives have memories, which is problematic for elected officials who want us to think this is a new problem that seems to have caught them off guard.
During the housing boom back in the 1990s city residents sounded the alarm over the increased growth Weld County and Greeley was experiencing, fearing just the very thing the city council is now claiming is happening. Back then, those of us who expressed concerns that the city could not keep up with the new residents were told by pro-growth officials and others that we were just being alarmist. They told us we didn’t need to worry because the fees on new housing construction was structured so that “growth would pay for itself.” This is why tap fees and other utility connection fees went through the roof back then.
Yet now we are being told that growth isn’t paying for itself at all. Why? Where did all this money that we were told the increased fees were supposed to take care of go? Does this mean you misled us all those years ago?
Lastly, this is the most important question that demands an answer for every tax increase regardless of what it is for. At what point have you taken enough of my money?
Regarding 2A, the city says it is miniscule, only amounting to 65 cents on a $100 purchase, but if we pass it suddenly the roads will become smooth and a pleasure to drive on. Greeley roads will now be a thing of beauty.
Whenever people come to us with a tax, whether it be for libraries, schools, roads or anything else they always couch it in similar language “it is only …., which is almost nothing.” The problem is all of those small increases by themselves are not much of a burden but when put together they come to a fairly sizeable amount. Let’s not forget the money we pay on gasoline, road taxes when we register vehicles, sales tax for various amounts and other “fees.” When all is said in done it is no small amount.
Years ago, an old friend of mine lived out in Barnesville. Residents wanted to pass a property tax increase for the school district. As usual it was touted as only costing the average homeowner a few dollars a year. A few days prior to the election he received a phone call from a young lady who supported the increase. She asked him if he supported helping the schools get more money for textbooks and other items. He said he did, so she then said, “Then can I assume you will vote for the property tax increase,” thinking she had an easy “yes” vote.
To her shock, he said under no circumstances would he vote for the tax increase. Stunned she asked why not, considering he just said he supported the schools getting more money. His answer was profound.
He said, “Young lady, I have no problem giving my own money to help with children’s education, which is what you asked me. However, I have no right to possibly make some of my neighbors homeless. I have no idea what their financial situation is. For me, $100 might not be a lot, but for someone else that could be the amount that puts them over the fiscal cliff. I have no right to do that.”
If the city wants this tax increase, I would like them to tell me which area they are prepared to cut my taxes by an equal amount? At what point do we say the percentage of each dollar I earn that goes to various taxes and fees here and there is enough and you can’t have any more?
I notice in the blue book ballot guides they never answer this question. They claim to want people informed but without this information how can they make a truly informed decision.
Until these concerns are addressed, I have no intention of voting for any tax increase, regardless of how bad the roads are.