During the heat of this summer, I’ve noticed some of the shrubs and smaller plants in my backyard really suffering (I may even lose one or two by the time fall rolls around). I started checking my bubbler line, and realized that no water was getting past the first, large mature tree. After some digging, I found the culprit.
After many years of growth, my big, beautiful tree had absorbed the bubbler line, completely cutting off the supply to the rest of the plants. In many ways, this is analogous to what is happening with our city and its budget.
As many of you know, last August, St. George had a “truth in taxation” hearing, where the city proposed a tax increase, marketed to be the only way to pay for much needed salary increases and equipment for St. George’s safety personnel (fire and police). It was a cheap psychological ploy to guilt the citizens into accepting a tax increase, rather than requiring the city to do a better job at budgeting.
In the budget for 2023-2024, we see the budget increasing 3.7% (when you separate out the the Capital Projects Funds from the General Fund, which is how the budget used to be presented, the General Fund has an increase of 17.87%.
Back in the 90’s, the city received a general obligation bond that was used for park system improvements. At the upcoming election in November, the citizens will have an opportunity to vote on a renewal of this bond, bringing in an additional $29 million dollars.
Since 2018, the combined budget for St. George has increased 88.33%. In that same time, the population has increased 18.34%. Again, the growth of the city budget is greatly outpacing the growth of the population.
To help offset the budget deficits, the city has continued to increase the price of fees and charges. Now, while the city may use different names for the financial streams coming into the city, let’s be very clear that the only way a city brings money in is by taxes, whether it’s called fees, charges, or bonds. The only exception to this is funds brought into the city by organizations that are acting as a business (such as the Golf Courses or Utilities). Every other stream is a tax.
As with my tree, it is in the nature of bureaucracies to want to grow. Like with my tree, this unfettered growth is putting pressure on (and in the case of retirees on fixed incomes and low income earners pinching off) the available funds of the population. If the size of the city and its budget are not brought under control, we will lose those in the most financial risk. And many will be left wondering where they went.