CityHall_09City Council will have to increase taxes this year or make drastic cuts to municipal services.
There are no other short-term options for them to avoid this reality, except selling Jackson Square.
The City’s discretionary reserve funds were heavily used during the past four years to fund capital and pilot projects – the reserves cannot be touched without impacting the City’s credit rate and interest charges.
Council can’t dip into the Future Fund for any more money. Actually, Council is suppose to start repaying “loans” it forced the Future Fund Board to issue the City. These repayments are not noted as separate items in the 2015 budget.
The official preliminary tax increase estimate is 4.4%. Usually, the number is in the 6% range, and drops closer to 2% during the budget process as new program enhancements are cut, reserves are used, and capital projects deferred.
The preliminary number is arbitrary and subjective – it can be any number the City chooses. The critical number, as noted in TPR’s budget overview story, is 3.8%.
3.8% is the “maintenance” increase – what it will cost the City to continue operating the same services as 2014. This alone represents an increase of $117 dollars for the average household property tax bill.
Any tax increase below 3.8% will need to be funded by dipping into reserves, deferring capital budgets and maintenance, budget cuts, or asset sales.
Which brings us to Jackson Square. Yale Properties approached the City asking to get a 50 year lease extension in addition to the 56 years currently remaining on their lease with the City. The City is exploring selling the land to Yale. There is presently no timeline for these negotiations to generate a report to Council.
There isn’t enough time for a comprehensive discussion of the City’s role and services before the approval of the 2015 budget.
Once people get their 2015 tax bill, the compliancy that lead to a record low municipal voter turnout of 34% last year will be challenged.
Is City Hall ready for a serious discussion of how we fund our City and tackle the $200 million/year infrastructure deficit?