Spending or Revenue? That is the Question

fireDoes Keene have a spending problem or a revenue problem? Ask your average working man on the street and he’ll likely inform you the problem lies in spending. Ask one of our city officials and they’ll tell you it’s all about the revenue; but don’t you worry. They have a grand solution in the works: more economic growth. Increase the tax base and the overwhelming tax burden we face individually will be lessened. It’s hard to argue with that because the math says it’s true. But how much growth are we talking about? And is achieving that level of growth even possible?

Well, let’s look at the numbers. Over the last 12 years, the city’s total commitment (City, School, and county) has gone from $43.3 million in 2004 to $65 million in 2016. That’s an increase of $21.7 million. $1.8 million averaged per year. The population of Keene has only gone up by 650 in that same time. The student population has decreased. Businesses have come and gone. And citywide property assessment has plummeted.

But it gets better. The amount of assessed value that the city would have needed to add in 2016 to hold that year’s tax increase at zero, would have been around $51 million of additional tax base. That’s the equivalent of around 5 Home Depots. And let’s not forget those new businesses would need to be staffed. And those new employees would need places to live and additional city services that everyone has grown accustomed to receiving; this driving the spending up even more. The city would need to do this every year to keep the tax rate from increasing. Do you think this is possible? The tax-and-spend city planners, school board members, and county officials currently calling the shots think it is. Personally, I think they’re all delusional.

As far as I can tell, only one of our city councilors ever talks about the real solution to these yearly budget increases; cut spending and live within our means. Sadly his opinion is shunned by the rest of his peers who seem caught up in their own SimCity  fantasy world oblivious of the long term consequences of their actions. “Never mind the cost,” they say, “we’ll just take out another bond. – Portsmouth has one, so should we. – It’s in the Master Plan, so we MUST do it.”

Well I say, no. The best way to promote more economic growth is to simply reduce the tax rate. This is what will attract the big employers to our region. This is what will keep the young in town and the retired in their homes. The key to long term community sustainability is achieved by living within our means, not by passing the burden down to future generations. To achieve this, we must cut the spending.

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Interview on Sound Off 11/04/17

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Candidate for City Council 2017

FrontDoorHanger

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.

ConanSalada@gmail.com

FrontDoorHangerBack

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Portugal Cured Their Heroin Epidemic, Could Their Approach Work for Us?

22688468_10214033665573446_1546690692561318199_nDr. Angela Barlow spent 3 weeks in Portugal studying the policies and impact of Portugal’s public health approach to drug use and addiction. In this discussion, she’ll answer questions such as: What is a harm reduction approach? How did decriminalization impact drug use? Could their model actually work for us in New Hampshire?

There will be a formal presentation followed by an informal discussion between experts and the community at large. All New Hampshire community members interested in ending the addiction crisis are encouraged to attend.

Young Student Center = Mountain View Room

Wednesday, Oct 25th, 7pm – 8:30pm

Full Info

 

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Too. Many. Signs. Stop it already!

Signs

Two of these “Pass Carefully” signs were added to Maple Ave recently. These things are huge. Blotting out the horizon. Quite the eyesore.

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City primary a Waste of resources

The Keene Sentinel, Letter to the Editor by Darryl Perry

Voters in Catalonia went out en mass on Sunday, Oct. 1, despite Spanish police shutting down polling stations, destroying ballots and attempting to stop voters from accessing the polls. Voter turnout was reported at 42 percent and nearly 90 percent of those who did cast a ballot voted for Catalan independence. These results however are being called into question as invalid due to the low turnout.

Contrast that election with the one held in Keene on Tuesday, Oct. 3, where voter turnout was only 5 percent — yet there have not been any claims, especially not from the international community, that the election was invalid due to low voter turnout.

Additionally, the municipal primary was held to remove a single candidate from the nonpartisan race for at-large City Council seats. This is because the city ordinance states: “If in the election for mayor and in the election for each ward councilor two (2) candidates or fewer, and in the election of at-large City Council elections ten (10) candidates or fewer, file for such elected offices as of the close of the primary filing period, then the primary election shall be declared unnecessary by the City Clerk, who shall declare the candidates nominated and shall place their names upon the municipal general election ballot.”

This language was originally adopted in 1973 — is the municipal version of California’s “Top Two” election system, in which only two candidates are allowed on the general election ballot — and perpetuates the philosophy that elections must be a binary choice. At the state level, there are provisions for multiple parties to be ballot-qualified, and the Libertarians met that criteria after the 2016 election for the first time since the 1990s.

During the mayoral debate hosted by the Keene Liberty Alliance on Cheshire TV, both Kendall Lane and Robert Call stated they believe the municipal primary — spending $10,000 to create a binary-option general election — was not a wise use of resources. I’d encourage the mayor and City Council to consider striking the requirement for a municipal primary, or at the very least expand the provision to allow more than a false binary choice in the general election; especially now that New Hampshire has three qualified political parties.

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Insights on the Druggies & Panhandlers Forum

“Don’t Feed the Bears!”

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