Archived Story

City needs real solutions not Band-Aids

Published 12:00am Sunday, January 29, 2012

Talk about putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Some Ironton leaders are putting a whole wagon train up front and shooting the Clydesdale when it comes to its ongoing budget crunch.

City council is in the ongoing process of analyzing each department and looking at holistic ways to make operational changes to how the city functions. This is a process that is expected to last at least another week or two.

Yet the group is already considering legislation that would ask citizens to hand over more of their hard-earned money.

Council gave first reading Thursday to an ordinance that would eliminate the long-standing reciprocity agreement — meaning everyone who works must pay the city’s 1 percent income tax regardless of where they are employed — and another ordinance that would raise the municipal fee from $8 per month to $10.

Making matters worse is that some members of council were in favor of deviating from standard procedure to adopt the fee and tax increases that night — a move that would have essentially stifled real opportunities for citizens to speak their minds.

Regardless of their individual motivations, this didn’t happen because councilmembers Bob Cleary, Beth Rist, Philip Heald and Dave Frazer held their ground.

Although these changes may have to be implemented down the road, and may even make sense if administered properly, now is certainly not the time.

So far the city has not shown it is serious about trimming expenses, having only discussed a myriad of options and not implemented any of them.

Putting tax or fee increases on the table so early in the process completely undermines all efforts toward cutting expenses.

If these revenue changes are approved now there becomes no sense of urgency. Basically, all the city has done is apply a financial Band-Aid.

Without addressing its expenses and an employees’ benefits package that is almost unheard of, the city is continuing to operate a system that is unsustainable.

If changes aren’t made, citizens can go ahead and ask themselves these questions: When will the next fee increase come? Three years? Five years? Ten years?

Make no mistake about it, more fees will come if real solutions are not implemented. And looking for Band-Aids before fully diagnosing the “injury” is not a recipe for success.

Ironton residents cannot be asked to continually absorb the cost of running a government that keeps adding expenses and does little to curb those.

A variety of changes have been proposed. Some — such as job consolidations and service changes — could make a big difference.

It remains to be seen if council can agree on these points. Even a “no-brainer” like changing a law that is essentially allowing taxpayers to subsidize free dumping for contractors has been met with opposition.

These ideas have to be fully explored before asking citizens to spend more.

City leaders still have time to do just that — lead.

That means making a plan not just for today or tomorrow but drafting a long-term plan that can sustain the city for years to come.

 

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.

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  • mickakers

    Michael Caldwell; You have not responded. Is Jim Crawford okey? Is there a reason for your lack of response?

    (Report comment)

  • mickakers

    I lived in Ironton and worked in Kentucky and paid the one percent Ironton City Income Tax and never begrudged it and was thankful for all the services I received. I left Ironton in 1994. Are you all still only paying one percent City Income Tax?

    (Report comment)

  • mickakers

    Michael Caldwell; I find your remark “an employee’s benefits package that is almost unheard of”, lacking in perception and understanding. Payable benefits are part of an employees salary. The City employees have traded salary increases for benefits. The City and County employees salary, to say the least, is substandard. Also, keep in mind, they pay the same taxes and fees you and the rest of the citizens do. Increases in taxes and fees are necessary to maintain the status quo. The cost of living has increased on all levels. Taxes and fees are no exception. As an annual visitor back to Ironton, the drastic decline in services is quite obvious, due to the lack of income for City coffers. The No Tax and No Fee increase, is childish and selfish, lacking in care and concern for the community.

    (Report comment)

    • Cashmere

      I pay taxes and fees, and I also pay more than 5% for my health insurance, and my pension is not picked up. Therefore, if I’m expected to pay more taxes and fees, the least the city employees could do is get a little closer to what the average tax payer contributes for their benefits. I understand that these pickups were part of a negotiated package, but are their salaries much lower than mine, or higher? Publish the salaries of these downtrodden public servants, and perhaps I will readily agree to sending more cash to the city.

      (Report comment)

  • mickakers

    Michael Caldwell; Where is Jim Crawford? Is he okey? I miss his contribution and insight.

    (Report comment)

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