Venice: The Tax and Spend Mayor and City Council
By Frankie S. Abbruzzino, The Uncensored Report
My goal this week was to put out an article dissecting the 50 cent per $1,000 assessed property value tax increase that the Venice City Council passed last month. The question I have is a simple one, is this tax needed? After all, didn’t the council just raise the property tax about three years ago?
Back in 2013 the City Council raised our taxes directly and indirectly, kind of like they are planning to do this year. The residents of Venice have been paying a hidden tax increase through the increased value of their property. Each year the property value goes up and with that, our taxes go up. For example, the house I am in had a property value increase of 16% from last year, so guess how much more will be paid out in property tax….. Now, I am not a mathematician, but with all these new taxes shouldn’t there be additional revenue? Where is all that revenue going? I guess the local government appetite for money was not fulfilled, so they decided to increase the property tax too three years ago (article from three years ago).
Here is the thing though, the council attributed the tax increase three years ago, to the same issues that they are attributing this new tax increase to today. The unfunded police and fire fighter pensions were putting a strain on the budget and the tax increase was needed to handle it. Wait, that was three years ago…… Do tell, are the pensions still unfunded? Talk about kicking a can down the road….. The council did increase the city employee pay by 1% with the tax, which is a good thing, since that increase only took five years of no salary increase for city employees. However, now it is three years later and the employees have not seen another salary increase. Whoops, it is not built into this budget, so the city employees will go another year without a pay increase (four years). Some will say “well at least they received a raise”. Well a 1% pay increase every five years will not even put them close to the cost of living increases that we see year after year.
Lastly, the council attributed the tax increase three years ago to the increase in healthcare, which rose an unexpected $1,000,000. Well this healthcare beast has reared its ugly head again, with the city forecasting an increase of $800,000. There really is not that much the city can do with the increased cost of Obamacare, the pain is being felt all around. However, I think they could have planned better. Maybe it is because I am in the industry and I saw these increased coming, but I would think that their finance guys should have been on top of this during the last property tax increase.
The bottom line is that the City Council has been spending on frivolous items, versus putting a to-do list together that is prioritized. Do we really need a parking lot just south of Sharkey’s for $675K? Did we need to spend $72k on a trolley for six weeks? Better yet, do we need to spend the planned 3 million on this same trolley for the next three years? Does the City of Venice really need to hire on a bicycle coordinator, in their quest to get gold status?
Call me crazy, but I think these programs or projects would have been placed towards the middle to bottom of the priority list if I were sitting in the Mayor’s chair. I think that dealing with healthcare cost increases, repairing the VFD and VPD buildings (known about for over a year), buying much needed fire trucks (known about for over a year), and putting an end to the VFD/VPD pension issues would have been a higher priority (known about 3 plus years).
Our Mayor and City Council have lost their focus! This is the second direct tax increase in three years by essentially the same council. Career politicians that just love to tax and spend our money.
I think much of the problem revolves around the fact that they continue to run unopposed. They are placed into these elective offices by the puppet masters that run the city. Once these players are installed, they are so insulated from what the public really wants. Their agenda is driven by a few citizen activists that will email them, the businesses, and the influential members of our community. No longer do they listen to the average resident. After all they don’t have too, since they get to stay in office unopposed or challenged.
I was contacted by an influential member of the community this weekend and the individual told me that the 50 cent increase is really needed because the council has dropped the ball and spent on low priority issues. He asked me not to be so critical of the tax increase because of the dire situation the city has back themselves into has made the increase a necessity. I agree, the tax increase is now needed because of the half-hazard decisions that have been made or not made, as they have kicked the can down the road on a few issues. I am not even sure it will be enough and I suspect that the council may be pushing for another property tax increase in three years.
We need so restore financial sensibility to the council. Unfortunately, until the residents step up and let their voices be heard, nothing will happen. Two City Council members ran again for their third terms and they ran unopposed. So, they are walking right into office and will continue with their agenda. Hell, one of the growth candidates even said that she wanted to remain in office to finish the comp plan. The very same plan that will dictate the direction the city will go in, when it comes to growth. We need residents to step up and challenge the status quo. Run for council, email council on issues, listen to meetings online or attend them if able, and hold the politicians accountable. Until we do, each and every one of us will continue to put out more money down that political drain.
For more information on the 50 cent per $1,000 assessed property value, the tax on property value increases, the two bond issues (taxes) for a new VPD station and better roads, and finally the potential Fire Tax you can go to my site and read my previous article at: http://www.thescoopradioshow.com/city-venice-residents-set-see-atwo-many-five-non-transparent-tax-increases-year/
Paid for by Frankie S. Abbruzzino for Mayor – City of Venice