The debate continues. The City Manager, the Mayor, and City Council are trying to find ways to close the 35 million dollar budget gap, and they need to do this by June 1, 2013. There is not much time left. Make no doubt about it. As it now stands, something will have to be cut to make up the difference. And what the city provides are services, so services will have to be cut. Less Police Officers? Less Firefighters? Closed parks? The way I understand it is that to balance the budget, one of two things has to occur. Either cuts need to be made or revenue needs to be increased. It is a simple concept. We all do it everyday managing our homes and our lives. But if it is simple, why can they not figure it out?
So far, the Manager, Mayor, and Council are expecting a very small group of Citizens to bear the brunt of the budget cuts. They expect a group about 5000 to fund this issue while ignoring the larger pool of about one million people who benefit from City Services. Of course, the 5000 are City Employees. Laying off city employees will save money. Increasing health care costs to City Employees will save money. Expecting all City Employees to take eight cost saving days will save money. That last one is the bright idea of the Mighty Quinlaven. Taking eight furlough days would amount to approximately a four percent pay cut for City employees. The same City employees who have not had a cost of living pay raise in five years, while the cost of living goes up every year. Effectively, each year the city employees did not take a pay raise they took a pay cut. And now the Mighty Quinlaven wants them to give back even more. Hey Laura, it is time to take a reality check.
But what of the pool of one million mentioned earlier? Who are they, and how can they help? They are every person who benefits from what the City has to offer. They are the people who commute to the City each day to work. They are the visitors who come to Cincinnati to enjoy what the City has to offer, and they are the city residents. Spreading the $35 million across this pool means that each has to give a little, as opposed to the small group of 5000, where each has to give a lot. And by the way, the 5000 city employees are part of the large pool, so they are not completely off the hook. So then, the questions remains, how do we extract small sums of money from the large pool of people? I have a few ideas.
Currently, city income tax, which funds most of the city General Fund is at 2.1 percent. I propose raising this to 2.5 percent. To put this in perspective, if a person earns $50,000 annually, they will pay $1,050 to City income tax per year, or about $20 per week. If the rate is increased by .4 percent, they will pay $1250 annual income tax, or $24.00 a week. Less that a pack of cigarettes, Les than a six pack of beer, less than a lot of things. In other words, they would not have to give up much to pay this extra. How about a parks admission fee? Why should those who enjoy the Internationally recognized park system expect it to be free. This is equitable, because only those who use the parks would have to pay. How about an entertainment tax. You want to go clubbing, you pay ten cents extra on every drink. How about a $1.00 city entrance tax to go the Res and Bengals games? Surely if you will spend the outrageous cost for a beer and a hot dog you will pay $1.00 extra to get in. Every baseball game and football game played at home would generate $30,000 to $50,000 extra revenue for the City. Here is a radical concept, maybe the city charter should be revised. Do we really need nine people on council? Maybe five would be enough. That would save a lot, considering council members salaries, council member staff salaries, offices, supplies, etc. Would $10 a month for waste collection be unreasonable? These ideas are just off the top of my head. Surely, with some thought many more ways can be discovered.
I realize that much of this would be unpopular. People are not likely to agree to more taxes. We already pay enough, right? But if paying a little bit more keeps your City viable, keeps your streets safe, keeps your parks open, then is it not worth it?
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
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