We live in a beautiful community. Demographics in Mount Vernon reflect a well educated and prosperous core. Cornell College helps keep our community diverse, multicultural and attuned to the arts. Our crime statistics are the envy of the world. Yet our City Budget seems to reflect a small town in need of a large police force.
Who can argue about Public Safety? We must feel safe and secure and the Mount Vernon Police are dedicated to that. No less dedicated, maybe even more so, are the fire department and emergency volunteers in our community. Yet they receive no health care and retirement benfits, let alone salaries. The Police Budget has almost doubled since 2005. In FY2016 payroll and benefits alone are almost $720,000. This is not to take away from the high quality people on the force. They are admirable. But as citizens we must prioritize the precious tax dollars extracted from our incomes and savings. It is time for a serious debate on combining the overlapping police presence in Lisbon, Mount Vernon and even in Linn County.
This is not a put down on police. We need them. Same as we need our streets plowed, waste disposed and infrastructure maintained. As taxpayers we must make sure our local government reflects our values. Before ranting about our federal and state governments, we need to pay attention to our local governments. The annual budget review should be a time to debate priorities. That is our sole purpose in presenting this commentary.
As my neighbor said recently," I don't mind paying taxes. I just like to know what I am paying for." According to census data Mount Vernon has @ 4500 residents or 1800 households. Yearly revenue and expenditures each are now hovering around $9.5 million. This amounts to about $5300 per household. The revenue comes from property taxes, service fees and debt, as well as from taxes we pay to federal and state agencies. Though the tax rate on property might stay the same, assessment of property value keeps rising. The only way the city can grow revenue is to increase taxes and fees. That is why it is essential for citizens to be involved in discussions of how that money is spent and how much new debt to take on.
Again this is not a put down on current city administrators. They are admirable people. But the city business should also be the business of its citizens. Every business needs a board. The city council and mayor act on a political level. Beyond politics, there is a need for independent analysis of city budgets. Today we have the technology to do that. We have access to audited data on local government from the State's Department of Management. Our effort is to apply technology and independent analysis with fairness and focus on shared community values to debate priorities. That is our sole purpose in presenting this commentary and the content on this site.
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