Our future demands a more considered approach

I am growing weary and angry with our government’s continued demand for ever increasing tax revenue and the endless march of regulations that stifle business activity. So much for our Federal government. Sadly, the same is happening in our community.

Over the past decade, there has been a steady march of increasing taxes and fees. In addition, the bureaucracy has grown. Along with this “growth” of government has come a procession of ever more stringent and costly regulations and requirements.

We must reverse this trend for the long-term well-being of our community, but the current path we are on will further our difficulties rather than ameliorate them. I am not in favor of the new tax-fee and spending plan proposed

There is a push to create yet another Enterprise Fund with the trash pick-up function. There are numerous problems with this approach.

First, there is a question of equity. Is it fair to charge a single retired person with a modest home the same fee that a large family in a high-end home pays?

Next, experience would lead us to believe that this utility will expand and demand greater fees from the citizens in the future. Once separated from taxes, it will be easier to raise “fees” than to increase general fund taxes.

If a new fund is truly the most efficient thing to do, the only honest way to implement it is to directly lower the property taxes by the same amount. Furthermore, we must allow the citizens the freedom to bid out their trash service. Competition is the only thing that will hold the fees in check.

Finally, garbage pickup was one of the “benefits” of residency in the city. What happens to that argument when we seek to grow in the future? Does that make us a more attractive place to live?

This action is a direct result of our attempts to find resources to fund new quality of life projects of OneKingsport. I applaud those recent attempts at strategic thinking. In fact, I was one of the early advocates of such a process. However, we have yet to truly articulate what we want to be as a community. Making Kingsport “a premier city to live, work and raise a family and for businesses to grow and prosper” makes a great Vision Statement, but provides little concrete guidance in prioritizing objectives and allocating limited resources.

It is not clear that these are the “best” things to do. Almost anything can be justified as something that will make us a great place to “live, work and play.” How do you efficiently allocate resources if your focus is too broad? I fear we are setting off on a course to spend money to do, admittedly nice, things without truly understanding the impact.

This brings us to the sticky subject of resources (i.e. taxes and fees). The fundamental problem is that we have failed to take into account the “bigger picture.” There are huge expenditures looming on the horizon. For example, that the City school system will soon begin its demands for funds to renovate schools. This figure will surely top $50 million before it is done.

Is it a wise policy to raise the public burden at this point? It is clear that many more increases may be in the offing. Shifting the load from one place to another all the while imposing that burden on the citizens is a “tax” regardless of how it is couched.

This tactic was already implemented when the City imposed a surcharge on the electric company knowing it would be passed through to the citizens. The tragedy of that action is that only increases cost to residents of Kingsport. Does this make us a more attractive place to live and work?

There seems to be an unending need to generate greater revenue for the City to be able to do more for the citizens. While this makes a certain sense, it seems misplaced in a community that is not growing. Rather than reaping the benefits of an expanding economy, we are simply extracting additional resources from the citizens so that we can spend more money to hopefully generate yet more revenue…to do more for the citizens. The circular logic of this baffles me.

We have identified the components of a plan. We have identified the costs. It is assumed that there will be a commensurate private sector investment. Where are those commitments? That is the true measure of acceptance in the market. Without such commitments, we have simply created a new spending list that demands higher taxes.

If we are not careful, the end result of our policies will be a community that looks like many others, a bit better than we are today, and more expensive than we were. Is that the recipe for growth and success? If not perhaps we should take a pause and re-evaluate our plan before we ask more of the citizens.



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1 Response

  1. Paula Taylor says:

    As one of the Seniors on a fixed income, I so agree with this commentary I pay taxes to live in the city. I pay taxes on commercial property in the city for which there IS no trash pickup. I only put my trash and recycle containers every 2 to 3 weeks because I do not NEED to do it more frequently. Will I be given consideration for these variations?
    I fail to see the logic that this fee will in any way make Kingsport more attractive for new growth. I believe it will actually have the opposite effect,
    Come on city leaders, do what people like me are having to do….REIN IT IN A LITTLE. I can’t spend someone else’s money to cover my needs. You should do the same with my money.
    Thanks for listening.