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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Portsmouth, Ohio: More Taxes To Fight Mismanagement?

Referring to the oft-quoted words of Benjamin Franklin -- "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes" -- Will Rogers, renowned American humorist said, "The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets."

Here, many believe Rogers' quip may be aptly revised by omitting the word Congress and inserting the words Portsmouth City Council.

The strategy of revenue is clear: When in doubt, increase taxes.

With the significant loss of state funding since 2009, said to be a total of $1,405,000 per year to the city’s budget, Council is asking voters to again raise the city income tax level. The city plans to ask voters to increase the income tax by 0.5 percent and to place that proposal on the May 5, 2015 ballot.

The Daily Times reports ...

"At Monday’s Portsmouth City Council meeting, City Manager Derek Allen said most recently the Local Government funding had been reduced to $635,000. City Auditor Trent Williams said it had been cut slightly in the past, but in the last couple of years it had been cut by 50 percent. 

"Allen has factored in $650,000 in Local Government funds in the budgets for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, saying he had no reason to believe there would be further cuts. But he also said all local governments should have seen it coming and planned accordingly.

“'In the community I came from, we saw this coming and we prepared ourselves,' Allen said. 'We pretended we didn’t even get that anymore and if they took it away we’re okay because we put millage on to replace it. What I’m saying is - if the governor takes the $635,000 away we (Portsmouth) aren’t prepared and that would be devastating to us.'”

(Frank Lewis. "City to ask for tax increase." Portsmouth Daily Times. December 10, 2014)

The proposed ordinance reads, in part:

“The city should expect the state legislature to eliminate the remaining $635,000 in Local Government Funds, and Whereas: The city’s General Fund is expected to be in deficit for the foreseeable future without either significant cuts to services and numbers of employees or additional revenues, and Whereas: The City Manager has already identified twelve positions to be eliminated should the city not obtain additional revenues, and Whereas: The City Charter requires minimum staffing for the Fire and Police departments, and the Ohio Revised Code requires certain financial support for the Municipal Court, thus any cuts to staff must be made in basic services provided to maintain basic aspects of city services, and Whereas: The city shall be unable to compete for jobs, improve its infrastructure, provide for basic community services or support the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership should the city’s current financial picture be not improved.”

The taxes are to be levied against net profits of all businesses, professions or other activities conducted by residents of the City of Portsmouth; on all salaries, wages, commissions, and other personal service compensation earned by residents of the City of Portsmouth; on all salaries, wages, commissions, and other personal service compensations earned by residents of the City of Portsmouth; and on all salaries, wages, commissions and other personal service compensation earned by non-residents of the City of Portsmouth for work done or services performed or rendered in the City of Portsmouth.

The proposed ordinance is so crammed with "whereas -es" and threats of "cut services" that one might think city residents are presently living on the brink of disaster, and they just might be in serious trouble considering the official speculation of black and red figures in the budget. It does seem as if projected woes of deficits and lack of funds spell a guarded and sad future for our small town.

A population of a little over 20,000 people puts Portsmouth in the company of other "thriving metropolises" such as Arnold City, Missouri (20,808); Farragut Town, Tennessee (20,676); Bethany, Oregon (20,646); and Havelock City, North Carolina (20,735). And, all of this "tax talk" makes me wonder how the rest of small town operations in the United States do business. Should Portsmouth take some notes?

Added speed traps, double permissive taxes on auto license fees, and tighter regulations on work permits aside ... "Money! More money! and Even more money!" cries from Council fill the air. 'Tis the season. Fa la la la la, la la la la ...
"Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat
Please do put a penny in the old man's hat
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny (half penny) will do
If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you!"
This holiday, perhaps it behooves us all to remember the words of First Ward City Councilman Kevin W. Johnson, speaking to members of the Scioto County Health Coalition on November 14 of this year. Johnson said Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen continues to find things in the city that “are absolutely broken.”

“'I hate to say it but that reflects years of mismanagement, ignoring situations; ignoring problems; ignoring their employee input or employee nothing,' Johnson said. 'I hate to say it that way but it’s just the way, if you don’t have management, employees tend to, "hey, I’m not doing anything." He’s facing some major issues. A lot of them come down to financial issues. We simply cannot afford to pay for what needs to be done.'”

(Frank Lewis. "Johnson: city suffered from mismanagement."  
Portsmouth Daily Times. November 19, 2014)

So, P-town folks, if your pocketbook is tight this Christmas, just force it open and gladly toss in your last few precious coins to insure that more of our town doesn't crumble under the weight of mismanagement, indifference, and oblivious ignorance.

It is evident, at least to some, we all should be glad we live in the town where Southern Hospitality begins and more taxes are a certainty. You can't say Old Ben, City Manager Allen, and Councilman Johnson didn't warn you.

"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses 
be departed from, the ends will change.” 

 --Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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