Opinion: Of Budgets and Town Taxes


 

Evans Taxpayers ShruggedIf you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders – What would you tell him?”

I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?

“To shrug.”

Ayn Rand― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

After two years of significant tax increases, many Evans taxpayers feel like Atlas. Making ends meet gets harder and harder. Unlike the conversation where fictional character Hank Rearden tells Francisco d’Anconia “To Shrugg” , most residents can’t take “The Palmer Solution” and “move” out of Evans. Since the town and school will continue to send out tax bills, walking away is not an option.
Over the last two years, the Evans Town Board has had trouble balancing the budget. There are four ways to fix the problem:
  1. Raise Taxes: The town board did this two years in a row.
  2. Borrow Money: The last three town boards did this. The total interest on all these loans has never been disclosed to taxpayers. A fair requirement to borrow money would also require an equal amount in “real” budget cuts. You can’t borrow your way out of financial trouble. You can only dig the hole deeper. The town has maxed out its credit card and is solving the problem by getting a second credit card!
  3. Use Reserve Funds: Evans does not have enough reserve funds to solve the problem. Millions of dollars, in the $3-$5,000,000 range “disappeared” while Catalino II was supervisor. The only way, under state law, to find the money was for the town board to request an audit/investigation. Past town boards declined this option. Remember Supervisor Dash’s jellybean jar analogy?
  4. Budget Cuts.
  • On a $16,000,000 budget:
    • A 5% across the board cut saves $800,000!
    • A 10% across the board cut saves $1,600,000! Problem solved!
    • An additional 5% across the board cut dedicated to the water project saves $800,000 a year and pays for the $4,000,000 water tower in five years!
  • The town has laid  off part time workers and tightened up spending.
    • The town accountant predicts that under current spending requirements, the budget will increase by 5-7% every year.
    • 29 Hamburg workers get layoff notices – The Buffalo News: [ Read The 2015 Article ] Did Hamburg fall into an abyss? NO!
  • The big question is do Evans residents want yearly tax increases or can they accept reduced services?
    • The incremental concept of managerial economics suggests that taxpayers would not lose 10% in services if the budget were cut 10% since Town Hall would need to become more efficient in delivering services.
    • Do residents think it’s fair to target just the police department for budget cuts? Or, should all departments and spending be considered?
  • Being a waterfront community has it’s advantages:
    • The Good: The parks and beaches can be used to develop tourism and bring money into our town.
    • The Bad: Too many past town board members only went to the beach to stick their heads in the sand.
  • The Only Real Solution Is Budget Cuts:
    • Taxpayers: They have had two years of tighter belts. They will have to accept some future cuts in service if yearly 5-7% town tax increases are to end.
    • Town Hall: Budget cuts = tighter belts. The budget problems were created by past town boards and town hall needs to be a much bigger part of the solution.

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