Letter: Stick to the planPublished 9:17am Wednesday, December 11, 2013
In the Dec. 6 editorial “Give excess back,” the Austin Daily Herald requests the city of Austin return ‘extra money’ to taxpayers. This suggestion ignores the fact that we expect the city to efficiently provide for both immediate and long-term civic needs.
The city of Austin consistently delivers fundamental government services to residents including safe streets, fire protection and waste water management. Not only are resources used efficiently for immediate needs, funds are set aside for capital improvement and unanticipated expenses. The city maintains a five year capital improvement plan which budgets for appropriate maintenance and replacement of everything from manhole covers to snow plows.
This system puts the city in a position to maintain infrastructure and ensure that taxpayer investments in buildings, vehicles, equipment and other assets serve the community for as many years as possible.
If the city were to follow the Herald’s idea by returning money ‘not immediately necessary’ to tax payers, no funds would be available for capital expenses.
For example, the city was able to pay cash for a $675,000 fire truck last year. Fire trucks are replaced every 20 to 25 years. If the city did not set aside funds toward that $675,000 truck each year, tax payers would face unpredictable jumps in the tax levy to cover those costs. Worse yet, the city could choose to issue bond debt for the needed capital, incurring interest charges of 3-4 percent.
It would also mean no funds for planned maintenance. City property would fall into disrepair and ultimately demand more tax dollars to destroy and replace it.
Let’s stick to the policy that has been working for Austin for more than 10 years—efficient delivery of immediate services and prudent long-term management of capital assets.