June 24, 2010

Taxes are taxes

My hometown of Fort Worth has been struggling with ways to close a projected $50 million budget deficit for the coming fiscal year. Nearby Dallas has been in the news due to protests over cuts in services as that city attempts to confront a projected $198 million shortfall.

A couple of reports that came out last month caused me to become curious about other U.S. cities and just how bad the situation is. As it turns out, American cities are in a world of trouble.

In the report issued by the American League of Cities, titled a Research Brief on American Cities, we find the following:

• Three in four (75%) city officials report that overall economic and fiscal conditions have worsened over the past year.
• Eighty-four percent of city officials report that unemployment has worsened over the past year and nearly nine in 10 say it is either a major (41%) or moderate (47%) problem for their community.
• More than six in 10 (63%) city officials report that poverty has worsened over the past year; representing the largest percentage of city officials reporting worsened poverty conditions since the question was first asked in NLC’s 1992 survey.
• To deal with the fiscal implications of these and other economic conditions, seven in ten city officials report making cuts to personnel (71%) and delaying or cancelling capital projects (68%).
• One in two (52%) city officials report that service levels will continue to decrease next year if city tax rates and fees are not increased.

Then Pew Charitable Trusts affiliate, the Philadelphia Research Institute, reports on the recession’s effect on city taxes, services and pension plans in a report titled, Not Out of the Woods, compare and contrast 12 American cities suffering from a variety of deficit-related ill effects, and the means employed by each to overcome their woes.

Around here there have been fee increases, free parking at city owned facilities (including museums) are being eliminated, garbage collection may be cut back, city swimming pools will not open, library hours are curtailed, and city employees are forced to take unpaid furloughs.

$50 million is a lot of money and they have to make up for it some way. We need to do something about it, but one means of increasing revenues is getting under my skin. Fort Worth and the surrounding suburbs are among many other cities practicing selective traffic enforcement as a means of revenue enhancement. Red light cameras, escalated parking violation enforcement, and speed traps. These and other selective taxes have enjoyed huge growth over the past few years.

Fort Worth is in the red, but other cities have it far worse. Researching a variety of Internet news sources I’ve compiled an interesting list of American cities and their reported budget deficits.

• New York City almost $5 billion

• Detroit $710 million

• Los Angeles $697 million

• Chicago $521 million

• San Francisco $483 million

• Phoenix $241 million

• Dallas $190 million

• Boston $130 million

• San Jose $126 million

• Honolulu $121 million

• Baltimore $121 million

• Denver $120 million

• Atlanta $80 million

• Las Vegas $80 million

• Seattle $72 million

• Harrisburg, PA $70 Million

• Yonkers $61 million

• Reno $35 million

• San Diego $30 million

• Norfolk $26 million

• New Orleans $24 million

• Cleveland $23 million

• Springfield, MO $17 million

• Sacramento $15 million

• Springfield, IL $13 million

• Bossier City $6.5 million

• Little Rock $3 million

• Lincoln NE $2 million

I suspect that I could spend more time digging and I would find that each of these cities is using similar creative revenue enhancement schemes as my own burg, placing non-tax taxes on their citizens.

America… Love it or leave it… I guess.


Old NFO said...

And to make it worse in a lot of places, the first two cuts are Fire and EMS hours/people... sigh... Why do they NEVER cut administration???