The City of St. Petersburg will work hard to raise your taxes this year. If you want to tell them “NO tax hikes”, you need to take action now. The City Council will cast their final vote to create a new “fire readiness assessment fee” on Thursday. This is a well-scripted drama and the vote is not in doubt. One or two of the eight council members will vote against it, but only because they want to raise the property taxes of “the rich”. You can tell them “no” by showing up Thursday morning at 8:30 to speak against the fire fee at 175 5th Street North. You can also send them a note to the City Council and the Mayor by email (firstname.lastname@example.org and Mayor@stpete.org).
Even if this fire fee passes on Thursday, citizens can still work to get the city to cut its spending rather than raise taxes. There will be budget meetings in September on 9/13 and 9/27. The city has continued to raise its spending nearly every year since 2001. The city spent $482 million in 2011 vs. $330 million in 2001. The city total revenues for all its activities in 2011 was $448 million, also well above where they were in 2001 at $370 million. These trends are shown in a previous blog post at the Sun Beam Times.
The city continues to have higher health insurance costs every year even though there have been opportunities to save money by changing to a high deductible health plan with a health savings account. In addition, the city could tell its workers that family members of city employees will be phased in to pay their own health insurance over the next three years. Right now the city pays for 75% of the health insurance for city workers. The city could also save about $5.5 million in interest payments by not building the “Lens” pier that will require obligating taxpayers to take out a $50 million loan!
The fact of the matter is that the politicians will spin endless amounts of propaganda to justify draining more money from the economy for their new tax. They will claim that the city will have to close parks and libraries, shut down fire service or police service. There is some truth there, since if the city does not bring the government worker benefits in line with reality soon, those services will be threatened by bankruptcy as is happening in cities around the country. The politicians are claiming that asking everyone to pay something to the city, they are creating “tax equity”. This as they create the vast inequity of forcing the poor and the struggling taxpayer to transfer $10 million to keep the political class (government workers) fat and happy. So much for “equity”.