Editor’s Note: This post was made in response to a proposal floated by Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden earlier this week, seeking a bond issue and tax increase of some $350 million to fund improvements to public safety. Holden’s proposal is destined to be a highly controversial one, particularly as he is seeking a low-turnout spring election date to float the tax increase as a parish-wide referendum.
Metro Councilman Ryan Heck opposes the proposal, and states reasons why…
The proposed public safety improvements are a good idea; however, the notion that we must increase taxes to pay for these improvements is patently false. In order to cover the payments necessary to borrow 350 million dollars to construct these improvements, an annual revenue stream of approx 20 million dollars must be identified, give or take a million or so.
All one has to do is take a peek into the budget to find the 20 million needed per year.
The Library system is sitting on 60 million dollars in cash reserves. If they were to make one accounting change, and operate in a revenue anticipatory mode, that would free up 60 million dollars right there. That’s right. They are sitting on a pile of your tax dollars, just trying to find ways to spend it. They are the New York Yankees of the City Parish Budget. These guys needed to hire a consultant to find a piece of land to build a new library only a few miles from the existing Goodwood Main Library and the Bluebonnet Branch. Any real estate agent in town would have bent over backwards to perform this service for free, in hopes of getting the real estate commission from the sale. Believe me, they can afford to kick in some cash, and they wouldn’t miss a beat.
350 million – 60 million = 290 million. Now we are looking at 17 million needed per year vs the 20 million we needed previously.
A good friend of mine visited the new Goodwood Library the other day and we spoke at length about how nice it is. Here’s the rub. As he described it, it’s the nicest nursing home for books he’s ever seen. We should stop building mausoleums for books and get with the digital age. The entire Library of Congress is available online. Ever heard of a Kindle? Yeah, we can bring the library to each and every person in EBRP for less than what we are spending today.
The Library system rakes in 40 million dollars per year and has almost 600 employees. Time to take a hard look at what’s going on over there. We can still deliver an excellent library system for significantly less than what we are spending per year.
One parish wide mill of property taxes is worth, today, approx 3.7 million dollars. The Library currently receives 10.78 mills. Asking them to lower it by 2.78 mills will result in over 10 million dollars annually of savings.
We’re halfway there.
CATS. Oh, where to begin. Remember, CATS is just a city wide millage, so that’s approx 1.8 million per mill assessed. Let’s just say CATS can afford to lower the millage from 10.6 to 8.6, bringing in approx 3.6 million per year in savings. Now, I know that means we’ll have a few less empty buses rolling around town, but hey, it’s doable.
13.6 million in total savings by asking just these two entities to take a little haircut for the benefit of the entire community.
Now, I hear that there will be some really positive savings on medical expenses for inmates at Parish Prison if we build this new prison. And we’ll also save a ton holding our own prisoners here locally instead of paying for beds out of town like we currently do. Let’s be ultra conservative with this number and call that 1 million per year.
14.6 million, and closing in on 17 million pretty quickly.
BREC. Haircut. Ask them to lower millage rate. Remember, 1 parish wide mill equals 3.7 million dollars. Shave a mill.
We’re now at 18.3 million a year. All revenue neutral. No additional taxes needed.
These are just some very simple examples of how we can pay for public safety improvements, infrastructure improvements, or anything else we think is necessary, if we have the will to do so. These numbers I came up with are not exact figures, but they do illustrate the point I’m trying to get across.
There are many, many more ways to approach this. We spend millions of dollars annually on needless lawsuits that could be better managed. We give away tens of millions annually in economic stimulus that for the most part is just corporate welfare. I could give you a dozen ways to pay for these improvements without raising a single tax on the general public.
Wake up Baton Rouge! Aren’t you tired of the same old rhetoric that we need to increase taxes and the size of government in order to be great?