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Our Opinion: Give excess back

Published 10:25am Friday, December 6, 2013

The city of Austin appears to be doing well financially, as city property taxes are expected to decrease. In addition, the city is expected to have about half of its budget for next year set by the end of the month, or so Finance Director Tom Dankert told members of the Austin City Council during a Truth in Taxation meeting Tuesday. According to Dankert, the city usually has between 42 to 48 percent of next year’s budget by the end of a fiscal year, so the council may have extra funds to put toward city projects.

We have another suggestion: Give the excess funding back to taxpayers by further lowering the tax levy.

There is no denying Austin has done well to keep its budget low; Austin is in the minority of Minnesota cities to decrease property taxes this year, despite increased government funding and rolled-back funding mechanisms from the state. The city is to be commended for that.

Yet we are firm believers that any extra money the government has should automatically go back into taxpayer pockets, rather than sit in government accounts waiting to be spent.

It is the taxpayers who elect government officials to serve them, and it is the taxpayers who ultimately should keep any money that is not immediately necessary for government services. If it’s not scheduled to be used, why not put a few extra dollars in taxpayer pockets next year?

Whether local governments are continually underfunded is a topic for another time, as the money provided by taxpayers should ultimately go back to taxpayers, in one form or another.

We are pleased the council has set the 2014 tax levy at $4,120,000, about $40,000 lower than this year’s levy. Yet when the council finalizes the levy at its Dec. 16 meeting, we would strongly encourage council members to do the right thing, and give any excess funding back to taxpayers.


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