Too busy spending to save

Published 12:36 am Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Franklin Mayor Jim Councill’s defense of city government’s rainy-day fund is admirable, but taxpayers have good reason to be skeptical when the mayor uses reserve funds as justification for a tax increase.

On the grounds that the extra money was needed to build up the rainy-day fund, Councill pushed unsuccessfully for an increase in fiscal 2009 real estate taxes. His City Council colleagues unanimously rejected the mayor’s plea and passed a revenue-neutral tax rate of 77 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

One only has to look at city government’s recent history to see that there’s zero correlation between taxation and the rainy-day fund.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, city government collected $7.74 million in general property taxes. In fiscal 2003, the city collected $5.5 million. That’s a stunning increase of 40 percent in five years, all under the mayor’s watch. Yet, the city’s reserve fund is only about $25,000, council members learned at their last meeting.

So much for the notion that government will do anything but spend the money it collects. If higher taxation truly was about fiscal responsibility, the city’s rainy-day fund would be overflowing. The fact that’s it not is why Councill’s argument fell on deaf ears.