Monday, November 24, 2008

Mesa's financial crisis and ways out

Gary Nelson has written a very interesting article detailing the history of Mesa's financial issues and how the town has been marching towards a fiscal crisis since the 1970's. He talks of a financial committee in the 1970's and one a few years back that recommended property taxes to help solidify Mesa's revenue. He also talks of the failure of the property tax awhile back. We have discussed, at length, the problems people had with the council at the time and spending money as promised.

Obviously, the political will was not strong to be the first council to implement a tax and as long as the economy recovered, Mesa was able to sneak by without making any changes. Mesa's finances were like a car with a "check engine light" turned on. Everyone sort of ignored the problems, drove on, perhaps changed the oil, and hoped they wouldn't be driving when the car eventually broke down.

The good news is that it appears that Mesa might be able to get some of its state shared revenues back. Its not going to be enough, but at this point, I would bet that any bit would help. Nelson appears to leave it as applying a secondary property tax to all existing bond debt would be the way to solve Mesa's problems. It appears that this idea has been bandied about lately as an option to help fix the hole.

I think that this would be a bad idea for two reasons:

1. First, I belive it would eliminate all of the goodwill and trust built up by the new council. They have been talking about changing Mesa, making it more efficient, and not making the same mistakes that the old council made. To turn around and levy more taxes shows that Mesa isn't changing, but rather the council is looking for more money to keep it the same.

2. Second, the council should savor their victory. The first property tax in 50 years is a great success. Now is not the time to push it. Mesa is still a conservative town and the people voted for the bonds because they saw the needs, not because they are now okay with paying taxes. I understand that its hard when people have to lose their jobs, but we are seeing it in business and we should grow to accept it in Government as well.

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