Who is doing the misleading?

salestax

I often shake my head when ‘normal citizens’ defend bureaucracies. Especially defending them when it comes to wasteful spending and overtaxing to benefit special interests. But of course you have to consider the source, someone who works for one the most broken bureaucracy in our country, the healthcare industry. Like our city, when hospitals want a new building or hire another overpaid doctor, they simply raise rates. So it should be no surprise that Mark Johnson is defending our city. But this is just the icing on the cake. His letter was so full of inaccuracies, I don’t know where to begin, so let’s start at the beginning of the manure trail;

The group is criticizing the sales tax on food and at the same time is attacking the second-penny city sales tax for capital improvement projects.

SOME of us are criticizing the sales tax on food. But that is not why I joined the group. I joined this group because I think the city OVERSPENDS and even though some of us think funding government through taxing food is regressive, unethical, immoral and downright stupid, I think we are all in agreement that our tax money is being spent foolishly on special interest projects.

The group is trying to reverse a vote taken by the Sioux Falls City Council in 2008 that raised the second-penny sales tax and increased our overall city and state sales taxes from 5.92 percent to 6 percent, which, if I am not mistaken, equates to eight pennies for every $100 purchase.

It was a tie vote with the Mayor breaking the tie. Ultimately giving the power to raise our taxes to ONE man, which in my opinion, is very, very undemocratic. Secondly, those 8 pennies add up to $5 million dollars taken out of taxpayer’s pockets, but it ultimately is taking $5 million out of business’ pockets that would have been spent on goods and services. Instead we hand it all over to a handful of wealthy developers.

In addition to petitions, the anti-growth and anti-development group is circulating information that highlights some capital improvement projects in our city. The information is misleading and inaccurate in several of its claims.

Not sure what burearcrat’s ass Mark pulled the statement from. But there is not one single person volunteering to our cause that is anti-growth or anti-development. We are however, against special interest money being used to influence city hall. Which is what this tax increase was about. Don’t believe me? Check for yourself. The four councilors who voted for the tax increase had all of their campaigns funded by the biggest developers in town. Just go to the city website and read their campaign financial reports. Mr. Lloyd cut a lot of checks.

Claim: $800,000 budgeted on new, historically accurate windows for the Washington Pavilion when the old ones are only 10 years old.

Fact: Capital improvements for the Pavilion are funded through the entertainment tax, and the group’s initiative would have no impact on the Pavilion. Besides, many of the windows date to the 1950s.

FALSE.

Yes, one member of our group put out a fact sheet that said the windows were 10 years old. she was working on her own and has apologized to city councilor Vernon Brown for doing so.

But Mark is flat wrong when claiming improvements to the Pavilion are funded through the entertainment tax. The entertainment tax subsidizes the operations of the Pavilion, that’s it. The building’s maintenance, because it is owned by the city, comes out of the city’s CIP fund. In essence an ‘extra’ expense to taxpayers beyond the entertainment tax. In fact, when the Pavilion was proposed to us, we were told that building it and upgrading the structure would cost us between $18 and $21 million dollars. It has cost the city almost $40 million to date.

Claim: $1.5 million for a facade at the downtown library is frivolous.

Fact: The actual cost of the design element is $680,000, and the entire downtown library update project came in $1.3 million under budget.

$680,000 for a design element is a wise use of taxpayer money? Can I get some of the green you are smoking?

Claim: $30,000 for a calendar of dates and events sent to Sioux Falls citizens.

Fact: The group’s initiative is for the second-penny sales tax for capital improvements. The calendar was paid for through the operating budget.

This one just makes me laugh. The calendar was paid for with tax money. You can spin that however you want, but at the end of the day we paid for that stupid piece of crap that most people threw in the garbage. I don’t care if it came out of the monkey crapper fund for the zoo.

Claim: $19 million on consultant fees this past year.

Fact: The city expended only $1.2 million on consultant fees such as the public transit-human services transportation plan, emergency medical services planning, public parking facilities planning, real estate title searches and sanitary landfill testing services.

The group has lumped contract services such as snow removal, lawn care, pest control, pension fund management and other services that are legally required but best done by non-city employees.

I think the words you are looking for is ‘professional services’. But hey you can call it whatever you want, at the end of the day the city spent $19 million on services that they could have provided themselves a lot cheaper using city employees. For example the city has it’s own engineers and engineering department, so why do we have to hire a private firm? Good question.

Claim: $10 million will go to the aid of developers and contractors to help pay for arterial roads of new development areas.

Fact: $4 million of the money generated will go for development of streets in growing parts of Sioux Falls. What the group doesn’t say is there is an almost $80 million backlog in development-driven streets. These are streets that need to be constructed because development already has taken place in these areas.

This is where I had to get out my 5-Buckle overboots to wade through this letter. First off the city said from the beginning, and according to their own website that the developers would pay $5 million in fees and the taxpayers would pay $5 million. If this has changed, a statement needs to come from the finance department’s office explaining the change. Otherwise it is just hearsay. Mark is right that we are backlogged OVER $80 million, but not on new development. We are behind on infrastructure maintenance. I have always felt a city must take care of what it has FIRST, then worry about buying new things. It seems the city hasn’t learned a lesson when the sewers backing up into hundreds of homes a couple of years ago because infrastructure was ignored. The second penny is supposed to be used on these kind of projects, instead the city has squandered it on new development (BTW, how can you be backlogged on something that hasn’t been built yet, like new roads? Isn’t that an oxymoron?)

We have spent more than a decade of planning and hard work to make this city a great place to live and work for all of our citizens. We benefit from having one of the lowest tax burdens per capita of any state in the country.

We have spent a decade overtaxing our citizens and visitors while borrowing too much and ignoring infrastructure upgrades. Tax burden in SD is low, for the rich. A recent study showed that the wealthy and upperclass pay out 1-2% of there income to retail taxes, while the middleclass and working poor pay about 10-16% of their income to retail taxes.

The fact remains, who benefits from the recent tax increase? You know the answer.



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