Scudder: Huntsville tax increases will hurt your wallet
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 01:09
With all of the political hype circulating around the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, it would not be difficult for a citizen of Huntsville to have missed out on the news from the city and the county about the massive, unprecedented tax hikes that are coming our way. In case you missed it, here's a bit of a crash course.
The county and the city have both voted to leave the option of a tax increase on the table. The county has proposed a property tax increase of almost 19 percent (3/5 of which are allocated for the new county jail that is desperately needed) and the City of Huntsville has proposed a 10 percent hike with no large capital improvement projects to blame. This, to me, is why the city tax increase, though not as large as the county's proposed increase, is still much more upsetting.
You see, last year, the city council knowingly approved a budget that was almost $400,000 in the hole. What's worse is that the city council has still increased spending between last year and this year by almost $5 million. These increases aren't for ambitious sidewalk projects, promotion of economic development, or investments in the arts; these increases are, instead, to help pay back accumulated debt and to give pay increases across the board. But not only are we seeing a large tax hike from the city, we are also, as we did last year and will see again next year, seeing an increase in our water rates of almost 40 percent. These water rate increases are coming to fruition despite the millions of dollars that are transferred from the water fund every year into the general fund.
Moreover, the increases aren't being met with efficiency and accountability in the current budget. Whether its $285,000 on fruitless studies or $1,000 for one councilman to attend a one day airport summit and stay at a fancy hotel, waste within our city budget is rampant. Council simply accepted the first budget offers put on the table by department heads instead of acknowledging the corporate strategy of departmental padding (where departments ask for more than they need to get what they actually want).
As a student, you're probably wondering how these property tax increases and water rate increases would affect you, seeing as most students do not own property in Huntsville. Though the increase in the average household would be below $100 a year (still out of the price range for working class, Huntsville families), the increase on an average apartment complex would be far greater. In order for apartments to be able to pay for these increases, your rent will go up--and not just a small amount.
In addition to being affected by skyrocketing rent, the cost of living in our community will increase exponentially and economic development (what little we are actually seeing) could come to a halt. For far too long, Huntsville has been a place that remains stagnant in the realm of economic development and an increase in property taxes will not only deter retail businesses from moving into Huntsville, but it will also deter industry, research parks and other types of development that would actually yield high paying, stable jobs for our citizenry.
If you're tired of the city's lackadaisical approach to economic development, the boring weekends with nothing to do, or even the lack of money you have in your wallet after paying your rent, then this tax increase isn't for you. This tax increase won’t get you the sidewalks or bike paths you've been wanting, it won't get you the infrastructure replacement you've been asking for and it won’t get you the development you want to see. This tax increase goes beyond just increasing taxes and puts a rubber stamp on inefficient budgeting for Huntsville's future. Register to vote and teach these folks that we mean business.