The constant expansion of Kingsport’s government must be restrained
I recently read with incredulity about the City of Kingsport’s potential purchase of the Regents Bank building in downtown Kingsport. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Here they go again…”
The city’s bureaucracy is on the march to further increase its scope, power and budget. Let’s look at what will transpire if this transaction is undertaken.
First, another set of property will be taken off the tax rolls. For the past decade, the city has been on a rampant program of “de-privatization” of property in our community. There are quite literally entire city blocks that have passed from private (tax paying) properties into city/public control. When this occurs, the tax revenue that used to be paid by private owners disappears. In this respect, our property tax woes are, in part, a house of our own making.
The current proposal would remove in excess of $80,000 in City and County taxes. The city tends to “forget” that their actions also affect Sullivan County. This is a very narrow bureaucratic perspective because city residents also pay county taxes. When the city forces the county to seek replacement revenue from the citizens, it is we who pay the price.
Just because you pawn the cost off on someone else, does not mean the taxpayers aren’t on the hook. This was no more evident than in the “cost shifting” game the city played when it imposed a Franchise Fee which was simply passed through to its residents by the power company. Government got more money and property owners paid the price.
Second, there will be massive ongoing expenditures to renovate the building. The city’s current working figure is simply inadequate. In a presentation, they estimate that renovations for the Justice Center and Regions Bank building would be $3 million. Given the size of the buildings, we could reasonably expect to see tens of millions of dollars in future costs. All of this to be paid from a, now reduced, tax base.
There are already identified parking problems with the bank property. Based on the city’s track record, It is rational to assume that other private properties will likely be purchased to make space. This is exemplary of the insidious process that takes place. One marginal decision leads to other poor decisions, all ultimately at the cost to taxpayers.
This is a classic case of why you cannot let government “start”…a new program, increasing taxes or imposing fees. They never, ever stop. They never say enough. There is always one more thing they “need” to do to make our lives better. Sadly, the one thing they could do (leave us to decide personally what to do with our money), is the one thing they will never do.
Reagan summed it up best, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear.”
Third, the city will undermine private investment. The city analysis shows potential proceeds from sale of excess property (some recently purchased and renovated at public expense) of over $2.3 million. When balanced against a proposed purchase price of $2.7 million for the property, this seems respectable.
However, this will pit the public sector against every other taxpaying property owner in the downtown. What do you think “dumping” several million dollars of excess property onto an already stressed urban real estate market will do to their property values?
Anyone trying to sell their property would now be contending with a competitor that doesn’t have a profit motive. No worries, the taxpayer can pick up the shortfall. Talk about adding insult to injury.
The city has constantly undermined local businesses. The expansion of the conference center competed with local venues. The YMCA competed with fitness centers. The subsidies for apartments and nursing homes challenge existing properties. Kingsport appears to be at war with many of those that have made investments in the community.
I understand fully the need to update facilities to meet the demand for public services, what I do not understand is the lack of strategic planning evident in our community.
Strategy is more than just looking into the future and saying, “I want.” Strategy is the allocation of limited resources to accomplish prioritized objectives in a competitive environment. The essence of which is to acknowledge that your resources are, in fact, limited and acting accordingly.
Much of these expenditures, such as rearranging offices and adding staff, have been and are simply increasing the cost of doing business. Kingsport is spending too much of its resources on what the private sector calls overhead rather than fundamental essential operations. This puts an additional burden on taxpayers without substantively improving performance.
In addition, Kingsport appears to be deliberately neglecting to include other financial priority objectives/requirements that will put demands on future budgets.
These include school operating and capital expenditures. The Times-News recently reported that Kingsport school officials said that starting next year the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen by law will have to increase their local funding. In addition, there is the looming renovation of recently acquired North High School. How many other projects are not being considered in the city’s analysis?
The City has a proven inability to estimate and manage large projects (e.g. an aquatic center originally estimated at $13 million that ultimately cost over $25 million). Because the city’s figures cannot be relied upon to make sound financial decisions, outside analysis is essential. However, we must ensure that the assessment doesn’t simply confirm the answer the bureaucrats want to see.
In another paraphrase of Ronald Regan, it might be appropriate to say that our city government is “spending money like drunken sailors, but that would be unfair to drunken sailors…because the sailors are spending their own money.”
Kingsport is spending our money and demanding more all the time. It must be restrained. Some semblance of sanity has to be imposed.