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Taxes already pay staff’s salaries, don’t they?

A question that I am often asked by City Council members is, “Aren’t taxes already paying staff’s salaries, so why do we need to worry about fees?”

From a policy perspective, that is one of the options available to them. They can decide that they are going to use all their limited tax dollars to fund services that benefit the larger community, as well as a higher level of service for certain members of that community. The services are being provided. Staff is out there performing the work, and they are getting paid. The more interesting question is, “Who is going to pay for those services?”

From a policy perspective these are really two separate issues. One is what services are you going to provide, and a totally separate issue is what revenues are available to pay for those services.

In the case of service fees, there is a linkage between the cost of the service and any potential fee. This linkage exists because they are paying for a specific level of service that most of the rest of the community does not receive. Or, in the case of many developer fees, the person or company paying the fee is not even part of the community.

If the Council decides that they want to unilaterally limit the revenues available to them, that is their right. But they should not be surprised when those self-imposed revenue limits impact the City’s ability to provide services to the broader community.

So, the question should not focus on who is paying who’s salaries. It should be on who is paying for the services that are being provided to the community, in many cases a very small part of the community.

Now, don’t you want to know who is really benefitting from this diversion of tax dollars?

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