Saturday, December 22, 2007

We Can't Have it All Right Now

During the past year we have discussed several projects that would be of benefit to the citizens of our community. They are a newly renovated library, retention of our Highland Park Theater, and new facilities for seniors.

Last year we completed the 10+ million dollar construction of a police station of which I still am having problems digesting since I was the only Councilman that had suggested we build or share building a facility at less then half the cost.

That being said, we now have city debt payments of 4 million per year and rising. For the first 10 years I was on the City Council we limited ourselves to a 3 million debt levy, but to reduce the yearly property tax levy while increasing spending on building, maintenance, and operations within the city budget, this City Council has raised the cap of debt service from 3 mil. to 4 mil + increases in inflation.

The current project pushed by staff and endorsed by the City Council is the renovation of the water plant at a cost of 26 million dollars. While this project debt is mostly offset by future increases in water rates to us and outside communities, our community debt levels continue to rise.

Now currently we are getting a push to move immediately on a library renovation at a cost that is projected to exceed 10 million dollars. The problem is that we are currently still paying for debt on past and currently approved projects. The next realistic window for a fiscally responsible debt plan might not be until 2010.

While I support looking into options for the library to move forward within our fiscally responsible debt plan, I will not increase taxes or fees over the inflation rate to accomplish this goal. I would actually like to search more options to reduce our costs and shrink government rather than continue to expand and increase costs. We must live within our means and not jeopardize any further the sustainability of the diverse economic income levels of families within our community. With the high levels of property taxes and fees we are on the brink of losing many citizens if we don't pay attention to their ability to deal with the cost of living in Highland Park. While we can't have everything we might all want, we currently live in a community that is rich in culture, compassion, and is responsive to the citizens needs.