Another well-written piece by Todd Martin

And thus we’re moving it to the font lines. Enjoy:

During the Great Recession (2008-2009), Elgin went through dramatic changes in revenue which trickled forward through downward property tax assessments. The old way of doing things (a flat property tax rate) was a paradigm that no longer worked. In the old days, Elgin got more and more money with a flat property tax rate because housing values were skyrocketing. Residents paid more and more taxes, but didn’t complain so much because of the “flat rate”. The great recession made this impossible. The City Manager and his team presented 3 choices to the City Council: 1) Raise taxes, 2) Cut Spending, 3) Do a little of both. The Council chose #3. As part of that, the property tax was changed to a levy and has been progressively lowered. Overall tax revenue went back up (with diversification), but not by more than historical standards. 

Todd Martin

Todd Martin

I say all this because Councilman Prigge’s biggest complaint is the increase in taxes. His solution has been to dissent and attack those who chose that #3 approach. He hopes to garner public support for replacing all of the “Liberals” and put in a council who will force lower taxes.

There are problems with Prigge’s approach.

First, his attacks are often crude, venal, and offensive (comparisons to prison rape, stabbings, etc.) so that he creates enemies instead of compromise. This Council replacement process is another example.

Second, the loud “NO VOTES” are over tiny expenses related to city government. For instance, his howling over the Chilean Sister Cities visit. There are no real budget solutions offered. Instead, he pretends there is a vast and growing surplus and the City is free to cut taxes without any changes. In reality, the budget is balanced over 3 years – no surplus unless you only count the 1st 12 months.

A real “fiscal conservative” would offer a budget solution. That would mean a balanced budget proposal over 3 years with lower overall taxes. By definition, it would include lower spending over that period which matches the cuts he desires. He hasn’t done that. It is easy to yell at people and call them names. It is hard to be honest and present solutions which affect sacred cows.

If you look at City government spending, the vast majority goes to labor costs. Labor is mostly in public safety (Firemen, Police). These guys do a great job, are well paid, and are well liked. If Prigge were to succeed in cutting Elgin expenses significantly, then those public service guys would be fewer in number or they would be taking a pay cut. The SEIU would resist.

If it were me sitting in that chair, I would be looking at de-annexing some of that far west side of town. Look at the map and you’ll see the coverage area that public service has to cover. It is a nightmare of unconnected sprawl.

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