So often I find certain local Republicans can talk all day about applying fiscal conservatism at the Federal level, but are unwilling to apply the same principles to local government. One need only examine Williamson County city and school board budgets to see that 'big government' spending trends are not limited to politicians in Washington D.C.
Last week in a 4-3 vote, the Cedar Park City Council approved a new budget and tax rate. According to news reports, the 3 dissenters "preferred a different proposal," but the truth is that Tony Dale, Matt Powell, and Don Tracy were voting against a tax rate increase. While proponents of the increase gave the usual reassurances that the .45 cent increase is just such a teensy, weensy amount that no one should care, property owners know that these near-annual teensy weensy increases add up.
The City of Round Rock will approve a budget and tax rate on September 23, and also seems to be on target to increase the property tax rate from 39.7 to 41.2 cents (per $100 of valuation). This will be in addition to the new charges homeowners will pay for the city's recycling program, and a new drainage 'fee.' (Don't you just love it when they call a tax a 'fee' or a 'surcharge'? Makes you feel so much better.) The City did cut the budget in some areas, but also added new expenses, such as a new commuter bus service to Austin. Frankly, I was not aware of the overwhelming demand for such a service, but perhaps I missed something?
Each city asserts that they 'must' raise the rate since sales tax revenues and property values have declined. It is truly disturbing that these leaders are either unwilling or unable to acknowledge that Williamson County families are purchasing less because of declining income levels, higher unemployment, and an increasing federal tax burden. Families are cutting their respective budgets and cannot demand employers 'adopt the effective salary rate.' The message from some elected officials to taxpayers seems to be "We don't care that you have less to spend, we are going to make sure you still give us the same amount of money in taxes NO MATTER WHAT!"
Happily the elected members of the Williamson County Commissioners Court listened to the people of the county and did not increase next year's county property tax rate. Perhaps the difference is that Commissioners run in partisan elections and know that it was Republican voters who put them in office, and such voters have certain expectations regarding spending and taxes. City council and school board candidates have the luxury of hiding behind the 'non-partisan' mantle, and run in May elections when few are paying attention. But, as these budget votes prove, party matters.