The Fever is Spreading

It’s not just the School District anymore; the City has caught the tax/spend fever. They’re even using the same rhetoric: “We have to tax all we can now in case we can’t raise taxes later.”

Governor Rauner’s proposal to freeze property taxes unless lifted by citizen approval through referenda has sent too many City Council members into taxing/spending spasms. What last week sounded like a hopeful, well-reasoned Council that was looking to spare taxpayers whatever burden they could, turned this week into a taxing frenzy. The end result, with 7-3 votes on most matters, were increased taxes on just about everything: property tax, liquor tax, gas tax, electricity, water, sewer, leaf and brush pickup. Of the broad list of possible spending cuts presented last week by Finance Director Peggy Colby, only one item, $30K for 2 electronic fire house signs, was cut.

What the School Board, and now the City Council, are forgetting is that even if there is a tax cap/freeze in place, all it would take to lift it, if need be, is a referendum. As longtime watchdog Yvonne Dinwiddie has often told both bodies, if there is a genuine need, the people of Batavia have always been generous enough to vote for it. Or maybe it’s not that they’re forgetting about the possibility of referenda, but that the caps are a convenient excuse, and fear is an effective tool……..

Speaking of the school board, get ready for another maximum tax levy increase allowed by law (+.8%, the CPI for the year), and… ARTIFICIAL TURF IS BACK! Not letting a resounding referendum defeat stop them (“it was about the debt,” they say), the school board will vote Tuesday on contracting for a design proposal for artificial turf in the football stadium (design cost, $56,000). The previous estimates for installing artificial turf in the football stadium were nearly $2 million. All the “improvements” they want for the stadium total $4.8 million. And that doesn’t include the cost to replace the turf every 8-10yrs at a cost of $500,000 each time (that’s over $50,000/yr if they were to save for it). Never mind the increased health and safety risks associated with artificial turf.

If the school board thinks they have enough money sitting around for artificial turf, let them instead cut the levy and give the taxpayers a break! At least put the turf to referendum.

As for the City Council, please get well soon.

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