Saturday, October 27, 2007

Blend It Unlike Becker

Sales tax collections are down, the Chamber and the developers beat the road impact fees, the cost of sprawl has been shifted to all taxpayers and general revenues, and now Fayetteville faces a $2.36 million shortfall in its general fund. Mayor Dan Coody and his staff seem afraid to make any tough policy choices and necessary budgets cuts, so we'll have to rely on Aldermen Bobby Ferrell and Lioneld Jordan to find judicious cost savings.

Mayor Coody and his administration know they have reached the limit on increasing the regressive and unreliable sales taxes to cover the costs of operating the government. They now talk about having a more diverse revenue stream, meaning they want to raise property taxes. Fayetteville Finance Director Paul Becker continues to push for a .9 mill property tax increase to take care of some of the shortage. The best option for Fayetteville, Becker said like a true unelected bureaucrat, is to increase both county and city property taxes.

Ward 2 Alderman Kyle Cook has good sense and said he thinks it is time to start taking a long-term approach to city revenues instead of continuing to jump and squirm and always playing crisis management at the last minute and every year having some knee-jerk reaction to the budget. That would be a welcome change.

Alderman Cook agrees with calls to diversify the city’s revenue base, but he doesn’t want to just keep piling more taxes on the people. During a budget meeting this week, Cook asked Becker what it would take to replace the city’s sales tax with property tax. No answer yet. The key point is that the property tax would have to be instead of sales tax, not in addition to it, Cook said. “I’d give up 1 cent of sales tax and make it up with property tax any day.”

Leadership is a rare quality, but we still recognize it when it appears. Alderman Cook’s proposal is both sensible and fair. Along with prudent reductions in current spending, it should get a full hearing before Tuesday’s forced vote to raise property taxes.

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