Well, they did it, just as predicted.
Just in time for the city’s extravagant, over-the-top Centennial birthday party, the East Ridge City Council done gone and raised property taxes by 25 percent. We’ve really got something to celebrate now, don’t we?
I, along with probably the majority of my neighbors, don’t begrudge paying our fare share of taxes. As I see it, the problem is that our city leaders have a real issue with prioritizing spending. When the parks and recreation department is at the top of the list in any given year, you’ve got it backwards.
Yes, everyone has heard the tired argument that Camp Jordan Park is the engine of commerce in East Ridge. If it were a finely tuned, turbo-charged V-8, instead of a four-banger badly in need of a tune up, the local option sales taxes produced from that engine would largely offset any necessity for a property tax increase, would it not?
If our elected officials didn’t spend $5 million in 2019-2020 on Phase I of park renovations (yes, there will be a phase II, phase III …) perhaps the city could have budgeted pay increases for those employees that deserve one. Of course, it’s somewhat difficult to identify exemplary employees when you have no system in place – you know performance reviews – to accomplish such a task. No, the City Manager, won’t insist that department heads evaluate employees. It’s just too much work to train the supervisors and objectively rate their employees to make them accountable.
If our elected officials didn’t get carried away four years ago and jump on board with getting a $500,000 grant from the state to build a super-duper, new and improved Pioneer Frontier with the obligatory splash-pad feature, it might have a few shekels left over to buy some police cars, which the City Manager says our officers are badly in need of.
See, the state grant comes with a big string attached … more like a big chain. The City of East Ridge must, repeat must match that $500,000 in order to get the money. Answer me this; does the city need to replace Pioneer Frontier with a $1 million facility? Do you for one minute think that a five-year-old kid gives one rip if he’s swinging on a tire on the end of a rope or a milled titanium ergonomically-designed swing that fits his/her rump?
What is conveniently never mentioned about our city’s property tax rate is that each and every household in East Ridge coughs up an additional $180 a year in a “sanitation fee.” Now that’s over and above your property tax. All that money – about $1.8 million per year – is used to run our fleet of specialized garbage trucks and pay the salaries of those men operating them. Oh, how many times have you seen one of our garbage trucks cruise right past refuse on your street? The department has so many rules about what truck picks up what stuff and when that it can’t get out of its own way.
If our elected officials would accept the state’s offer to pay $30,000 a year for the city to contract out mowing grass at Exit 1, it wouldn’t have to shell out roughly $50,000 per year to maintain/purchase tractors to cut it. Throw in the salaries of six Street Department employees, whom I was told do very little except keep that green swath cut, and the city is burning through more than a quarter million bucks a year for things to look immaculate down there in the business district.
Imagine if our street department employees (I’m told we’re down six in that department) focused more on keeping the gutters swept and the storm drains clear in the streets of our neighborhoods how the taxpayers might have greeted a potential property tax increase.
Fall is just around the corner, folks. Good luck getting the leaves you are told to rake to the curb for pickup by the leaf vacuum device before that crap decomposes to mulch. Mark my words, the excuse will once again be that the vacuum – one of two I believe the city owns – is broken and in desperate need of repair.
Paving schedule? How long have the taxpayers heard of a need for a paving schedule? I give up on that one. I’ll give the City Manager this; at last week’s council meeting there was talk of throwing $200,000 of the $1.1 million added to the budget between first and second readings to pave some streets.
Let’s see … $600,000 for salary stabilization: $200K to pave perhaps less than a mile of streets in our neighborhoods. That sounds about right, doesn’t it? The employees get two-thirds, the citizens one-third.
When City Manager Chris Dorsey presented his argument for a tax rate increase to the council at last week’s meeting – by the way Jacky Cagle and Esther Helton did not buy it and voted no – at the conclusion he asked the employees present at the meeting to stand. From what I could tell by the video of the meeting many, many city employees were present. It’s kind of tough to tell someone “no” in person, isn’t it? I’m sure that was the idea behind the move.
Makes me wonder who our council and mayor is more concerned about: the people who pay taxes in this fine city or the employees who benefit from them.