Monday, February 17, 2014

Herald-Bulletin Argues Council Error on Tax Levy Could Hurt Down the Road

From the Anderson Herald-Bulletin:

There should have been no way that the city of Anderson missed a deadline in obtaining its tax levy for 2014.

Certainly there's no justification.

Meeting budget deadlines is a routine process known by all government entities.

But Mayor Kevin Smith's administration, along with the city council, missed a Sept. 12 deadline by 24 hours. The city lost $810,742 in its property tax levy.

In short, the council did not conduct a public hearing on the proposed 2014 budget in accordance with state mandates.

As a result, the 2014 budget stays at $38.8 million instead of $39.8 million as sought. Taxpayers will think this could be a break in their property taxes.

Hardly, the city can't recoup its anticipated growth revenues. The operating balance in the general fund may well be reduced to make up for the shortfall, which means city services could be cut. This error should be no sign of relief for taxpayers but rather one of frustration.

The slip-up is well known. The state's Department of Local Government Finance typically holds government bodies responsible for meeting deadlines. If the deadline is not met, then the DLGF approves appropriations and levies at the levels most recently set.

Who do we hold accountable?

The elected officials who failed to adhere to state-imposed deadlines — namely council members. The council is responsible for determining the city budget and conducting a public hearing.

It didn't.

And while taxpayers may not see the impact in the next few weeks, the whole city may feel its impact when services are reduced.

In summary Council members should be held responsible for missing a state-imposed deadline in preparing the 2014 budget.