The fiscal budget is simply a planning tool. During my four years on the Belleville City Council, each year we have failed to plan the wants and needs of the citizens as it relates to crime and infrastructure improvements. Counter to the negative campaigning against me, which no one seems to “man up” to, voting against a budget does not mean you are against everything within it – especially as relates to public safety, infrastructure or providing basic responsibilities as it relates to personnel, insurance or pensions. Not one police officer has been placed on the streets with the gambling tax as promised.
Every item in the budget will be voted on separately as we spend funds or officially earmark them for a project. The budget will also be amended many times during the fiscal year with items deleted, added or funds amended within a specific line item. As mentioned, this budget does not address crime or infrastructure needs, but more importantly, it does not address or have a contingency plan as it relates to potential state government cuts other than spending down our reserves. That is dangerous.
Consequently, this budget fails as a planning tool. The city’s response, or shall I say the mayor’s and the administration’s response, to the state’s $600,000 cash flow problem was a wheel tax and then a higher sales tax. These two taxes over the past five years have brought in more than $5 million. What do we really have to show for it? When will we address the perception of crime and how it affects loss of sales tax by loss of consumers?
The challenge before this new City Council is what happens if we, the city, are faced with a $1.1 million – or even worse, a $2.2 million – cut to city-operating general funds? This can only be addressed by cuts to services and/or staff or additional tax increases. The average family within the city will be deeply financially handicapped with an additional property tax or sales tax on their bottom line family income as they try to meet the simple needs of placing food on the table for their children. Furthermore, higher taxes of any sort will only hurt businesses and consumers.
Counter to my opponents who have tried to paint me as negative toward the city, I have deep compassion and love for Belleville. Those who try to stifle a voice of reason or concerns are not doing justice for a benefit to the taxpayers. They are avoiding the truth and reality. We cannot sustain the direction we are going.
I wish the city nothing but the best. I wish the new City Council good fortune, and hope that the aldermen roll up their sleeves, demand to be more involved as I tried to do and not forget they are there to represent, not rubber stamp. The future of Belleville, especially the next two years, is in their hands.