Tuesday, March 13, 2007

How words lead to confusion

I've been thinking about this for a while now, but particularly in regard to the City's budget deficit and the proposed "trash fee."

Currently, Toledo has a 3/4% TEMPORARY payroll tax...I say temporary because that's the way it was originally advertised for the first vote in 1981. It's since been renewed at every opportunity. It's supposed to cover police, fire and trash services.

All of us recognize that the money this temporary tax originally generated in 1981 is not enough to cover costs today. However, the reality is that wages are higher today than they were 25 years ago, so the tax should generate more funds. Except in Toledo where it's possible (I don't have specific numbers) that our total employment is not as high as it was then.

But Toledoans take exception to the "temporary" portion of this description, despite the fact that they've had the opportunity to vote on this 'temporary' tax. They keep asking why it continues to appear on the ballot when it was supposed to be 'temporary.' While "confusion" over this phrasing may be a strong way to describe it, the feeling leads to emotions from angst to anger.

Today, the mayor and council are talking about instituting a $6 'trash fee' because we have the "Cadillac of trash services" - unlimited pickup including large items like furniture, etc. However, no one has said if this $6 will be dedicated to the refuse department and be used solely for trash collection.

And this is where I think the words 'trash fee' will lead to confusion. Our city leaders, I predict, will impose some sort of additional fee and call it a "trash fee." This would be easier than making the tough decisions to truly curtail government spending.

But the 'trash fee' won't be dedicated to refuse collection. Nor will they redirect general fund monies from refuse to other line items. This 'trash fee' will go directly into the general fund to be used for multiple purposes - primarily to help eliminate the $11 million deficit. And it will work, maybe...but only for 2007.

Some projections of the deficit for 2008 have been as high as $17 million. Even if the mayor and council present a balanced budget for 2007, they're looking at up to another $6 million they'd have to find for 2008 - either in further cuts or in additional revenue. And, I believe, trash pickup will again be the topic.

And when they start on THAT process, the confusion over the $6 'trash fee' and what it was intended to do will come back to haunt them.

5 comments:

Lisa Renee said...

Maggie, that's an important thing to point out, we all know despite calling it a "trash fee" that it's not going to be just for trash because it's not the trash collection costs that have created the deficit. If it was, the simple solution would be to just stop unlimited pick-up of garbage. Which also leads me to go back into my memory when it was touted that stopping alley trash pick-up in neighborhoods like mine was going to save the City money. Realistically if I'm going to pay for the service, I'd rather have it back in the alley and perhaps have some of the rats that now come up on my porch to check out our trash stay in the alley....

:-)

Maggie Thurber said...

That's right, Lisa...I'd forgotten about the alley trash money savings until you brought it up. Bet a lot of others will have the same perspective that if they're going to pay more for it they'd want to be able to have more say in where it gets picked up...

-Sepp said...

Nothing confusing about it all. Anytime your local government has a ton of pet projects on the front burner and still "need" to raise your taxes and fees, you're being taken for a ride.

Maggie Thurber said...

well, -sepp, I thought that went without saying, but you did so succinctly.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

First, pay no attention to "The Charlatan" behind the curtain...

You are correct about the trash fee, it will go into the general fund ostensibly to cover the budget hole, with no direct assignment to trash pickup, that is a given.

It's the old path of least resistance game, and it's going to bite hizzoner in the ass for using this ruse to extract another drop or two of blood out of “We the Turnips.”

Better would be a wholesale reevaluation of Toledo government, from stem to stern and call things what they are, especially the so-called "temporary" (now approaching ~27 yrs. old) 3/4% tax increase.

The same goes for every government job, its title, compensation and duties.

Together, these two ideas could not only reinvigorate/reinvent Toledo government, but it can/would identify and trim the pork and the fat, and that would be a good thing, IMO.

But then, what the hell do I know?

My only experience is in earning a living, paying ungodly taxes and assessments and watching our local government's shenanigans for several decades now.

--The Vigilant Turnip

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