This city cannot tax its way to prosperity.
The Keene city master plan opens with a discussion on the importance of community sustainability. The original definition provided states that true community sustainability is “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Who could argue against such a wonderfully simple objective. If I could, I would have that message chiseled into the side of City Hall to act as a permanent reminder to all who do business within those walls.
Why? Because our elected leaders, city planners, and do-good visionaries need a serious wake-up call. In their attempt to achieve a great shining city on the hill, they have neglected the sustainability of future generations by way of higher taxes and cost of living, burdensome regulations, city debt and broken policies like public pensions and healthcare that will soon be completely unaffordable for us to maintain.
My lot in life has grown increasingly compromised by these issues and I know many in this community/State/Country who share in my predicament. Yes, we should all strive daily to leave our lot in life better off than when we received it but we must be careful that the cost of achieving that goal isn’t passed down unfairly to future generations to bear.
The Real Problem.
The single most pressing long term-issue we face as a community is the crushing tax burden. It affects us all. Homeowners, retirees, students, business owners small and large.
The current fix-it-all narrative from many of our city officials, is to encourage more economic development which they believe will alleviate the tax burden on us all. While it sounds good on paper, this plan will never achieve its intended goal. There is no possible way to attract enough growth to Keene to keep up with the yearly spending increases. By the city management’s own admission, we would need to bring in the equivalent of around Home Depots every year to balance Keene’s close to $2 million in yearly budget increases. Of course, you would need to staff those new businesses with a competent workforce as well. And they would need housing and city services. We would have to accomplish this EVERY year to keep tax increases at zero. Do you really think this is possible? No, Keene doesn’t have a revenue problem. It has a serious spending problem.
Here are some ways to get city spending under control:
- Pay down the debt. Stop taking out new bonds. The city currently owes $4.9 million per year in debt service. 8% of the $61.4 million budget.
- Lower city employees wages and benefits to match private sector workers.
- Stop expanding the downtown Tax Increment Finance district which indirectly funnels revenue from the general fund. Currently that amount is $1.5 million of potential tax revenue.
- Remove every department from city control that is not constitutionally mandated OR which can be provided more efficiently through the private sector:
2018 Budget Revenue Cost to taxpayers
Airport $622,000 $455,000 $167,000
Parking Enforcement $2.2 Mil $1.2 Mil $1 Mil
Rec Center $3.1 Mil $561,000 $2.5 Mil
Library $1.4 Mil $59,000 $1.3 Mil
Code Enforcement $1.1 Mil $307,000 $793,000
Youth Services $128,000 $23,000 $105,000
Leaf pickup $101,000
Public Employee Parking $34,000
- Reduce all remaining non-self sufficient department budgets by 5%.
- Sell off all unneeded/unused municipal buildings and properties. The city should not be in the real estate business.
- Amend the city charter to exclude the requirement for a mandatory Primary election. $10,000 to remove one candidate from the General election is ridiculous. Explain to me what’s is the problem with having 20 At-Large candidates on the General ballot?
- Fix the public employee pension and healthcare system. We can’t wait for Concord to fix this growing issue. It’s time for the city of Keene to start looking at alternative options.
- Begin to transition more responsibility of the maintenance and upkeep of the downtown district over to the Keene Chamber of Commerce. The city currently spends far too much time and resources trying to manage this area.
Vote for a sustainable future.
The time to tackle this growing issue is NOW. Not in 10 years; right after the first big employer decides to uproot their company and move to a more hospitable region. It’s time to stop kicking this can down the road for future generations to deal with. It’s time to elect someone who is ready to think outside of the box and make the hard decisions that our current representatives are unwilling to consider.
I hope you will consider me November 7th. Thank you.