Cindy Klepper of the Huntington County TAB is publishing a series of five questions and responses from the mayoral candidates. Here is my response to question #4 published April 18th.
A city services/refuse collection fee of $10.00 a month assessed to each city water customer was instituted in July 2010 to help the city balance its budget. That fee is scheduled to expire on May 1, 2011. Should it be allowed to expire, or should it be extended? Why?
The city has faced real challenges since the adoption of HB 1001 (property tax caps), combined with the recession and property-tax assessment appeals. My property taxes at 63 Madison Street dropped around $700 from 2007 to 2010. These are real dollars no longer available to the city, county, or library, so budgets must be tightened.
Had the Updike administration focused on proactive cost-cutting and more efficient operations, a service fee might not have been necessary. Instead, there was a constant push for the fee. It was imposed in July 2010 as a means of last resort by City Council to close the “revenue gap” in the General Fund by the end of 2010. When it was implemented, I recommended that the fee have a “sunset” date so it would have to be re-evaluated rather than continued indefinitely.
Based on the latest financial reports from the Clerk-Treasurer to City Council, I believe that fee should be reduced, to $6/month, until May 1, 2012. Given the city’s current financial position, it would be irresponsible and unfair to the next mayor to eliminate this fee before a new administration has the opportunity to take new approaches to strategic cuts and operational efficiencies.
Given the revenue decline, the city must practice good stewardship of our resources. The principles that apply to private businesses should also apply to delivery of public services. As individuals, we are wise to live within our means. As a community, we must do the same.
Let’s Move Huntington Forward!