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Why is city raising taxes now? (12/08/2010)
By Frances Edstrom

Winona City Council members Tim Breza and Deb Salyards should be thanked for their positions against raising the 2011 property tax levy for Winona city residents. Their work was ultimately futile, as the rest of the council and the mayor voted to raise taxes, but perhaps their resistance helped to lower the rise from the 4.6% proposed earlier to the 3.6% additional tax finally voted in.

Breza pointed out that there were certainly items in the budget that could be cut — equipment purchases, etc. — and deferred to a later date when, we hope, the economy would be improved. Salyards pointed out that the people sitting at the council table were relatively well-off, and wouldn’t be sunk by higher property taxes, but that many of their constituents were not as well-off, and could be hurt by the burden of an extra bill.

Their position seems to be borne out in a report released from Winona County Recorder Bob Bambenek showing the number of real estate foreclosures that occurred in the first eleven months of 2010. Of the ninety foreclosures in Winona County, well more than half were in the city of Winona — 52 foreclosures in eleven months! Certainly there are many people out there who are teetering on the brink, and to whom an extra $25 or $100 could send into foreclosure.

Winona city government spent much of the past year going through the Bureaucrat Budget Boogie, dancing around pretending to look at their budgets, but just not finding any fat to cut. Really?

Mayor Jerry Miller claimed that people want city government to spend more money so they can have all the services they are used to. Some may think so, but is it a responsible government that protects itself first and thinks of the taxpayer second? Look at the flak that President Obama took for suggesting that federal workers take a freeze — a move that could save the country $2 billion by September 2011.

A New York Times reporter wrote, “Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute…found that federal civilian workers had an average annual wage of $81,258 in 2009, compared with $50,464 for the nation’s private-sector workers. Average federal salaries rose 58 percent from 2000 to 2009, compared with 30 percent in the private sector, according to his study.”

The Times also reported, “John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said ‘We’re an easy scapegoat…We weren’t the ones who got us into this fix.’”

Well, we in the private sector didn’t get us into this mess, either, except by being citizens, voting, and participating in the boom economy when it was here. Now it’s time for all of us to pay the piper, and that includes government workers, who should not be immune from the reversals the rest of us are suffering.

To say to the taxpayer, as the mayor and majority of the city council did Monday night, “We aren’t getting enough money from the state (which is really you taxpayers), so you are going to have to give us even more!” is not what we would hope from a responsible and equitable local government. Times are tough, let’s not continue to make them tougher for people with limited resources. 


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