Focus for Local Governments Should Be on Improving Services
The state budget proposal would force counties to submit plans to merge and consolidate various functions and services with local governments. The plan contains no provisions on how to preserve public services, prevent the dislocation of employees and how the state can help local governments improve their communities.
Counties and local governments have been set up for the fiscal situation that they face. Years of inadequate state assistance and an inflexible tax cap that ties the hands of voters when it comes to revenue decisions are to blame. Local governments have already cut services, delayed projects and turned away those who need care. With few revenue options, these circumstances have predictably forced many local governments into desperate budget situations.
We urge the legislature to reject forcing more services cuts and to reject what will be a costly process of forcing votes to cut more programs. Experience has shown that voters overwhelmingly reject service cuts, mergers and dissolution of their local governments. This is because each of these entities were formed with the consent and support of the voters so that they could decide what works in their own communities.
Instead we need to amend the property tax cap to re-establish flexibility for voters to determine what services they need in the community. We need to take a closer look at failed tax breaks that Industrial Development Agencies and Local Development Corporations approve. And we need to increase state assistance to our local governments to relieve the burden on local taxpayers.
Mario Cilento, President