Stephenville City Council budget cuts and what to do about them

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Trolling local news sites on Facebook for inspiration for this column and my blog, “Crosswise on Politics,” I came across several items of interest:

An article in The Flash Today reported that several city council members had questioned the credibility of statements made by the Mayor and the Administrator who claimed that the recently adopted budget had cut no services.  Not so, said the council members—services had indeed been cut to allow spending cuts in current programs to raise more money for the SEDA created by Prop 1.  Services mentioned in the article as being cut included those provided by the library and the senior citizens center.

Someone on Erath County Rant and Rave claimed the streets were in poor repair and chastised past and present city council members for failing to do more to maintain them.  I replied that to do so would cost more money than is currently available and suggested she either come before the city council and complain, or, better yet, run for council herself in the upcoming elections.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with cutting spending on the library, the senior citizens center, roads, or any other city-provided services if one thinks the city is already doing too much in those areas.  If that’s the case, then by all means chop away!

Dr. Malcolm Cross
Dr. Malcolm Cross

But if one opposes cuts in current services and feels the urge to do something about it, one must be aware of the commitments to increase spending in certain areas already made, or likely to be made, by the public or the city council.  Given the council’s evident (and politically wise) determination to hold the line on the property tax rate, more spending in new areas will probably lead to more cuts in existing programs and services. 

And where can we expect spending increases?  Consider:

  • Economic Development — What specific expenditures will be made remain to be seen, pending the SEDA board’s recommendations, but Prop 1, as proposed by the city council and passed overwhelmingly by the voters, indisputably commits the council to more spending;
  • The Pay Plan — unanimously passed by the council my last year on it, commits it to spending more money on employee pay;
  • The Multipurpose Center under discussion — No matter where it’s located, what services, or how it’s financed, it’s going to cost a bundle;
  • Annexation of new territory — The city, if it annexes more land, will acquire more property tax revenue from residents in  newly incorporated areas, but it will also incur greater costs in providing services to its new residents; whether annexations take place and  how the new revenues and expenditures will balance out remain to be seen.

Now, if these initiatives or other factors cause the economy to perk up and produce more tax revenue soon, than maybe these new programs can be financed without raising the tax rate.  But if that doesn’t happen, than be prepared for more cuts in existing services to finance the new.  And if there are programs you want cut, or want protected, by all means go to the council and say so.  Or better yet, run for the council yourself.

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