Keeping Municipal Taxes in Check
Friday, September 28, 2012 • 12:20pm
As I walk through town and meet the people who live in Madison, the one thing that’s on everyone’s mind is the need to continue to hold property taxes in check. Our citizens do not want to pay anymore than they are paying now, and some even say that taxes are already too high, especially in light of continuing increases on the cost of living - gas, food, education, health care, etc.
In my view there are three basic elements that influence the amount of taxes we pay. The kind and cost of municipal services, the efficiency and productivity of the way services are delivered, and the amount of non-tax revenue generated to offset property taxes.
I believe a careful, long term evaluation and assessment of our services needs to be undertaken to see if there are any which are no longer needed, and, to uncover any new services our citizens need and want. My background in analyzing the way services are delivered will provide a thoughtful approach to this task. In addition, we must tap into the talents of our citizens, to get their input and help in their various areas of expertise.
In the past few years a good deal of progress has been made in identifying and eliminating unnecessary redundancies in the tasks and processes used to deliver services. Positions have been combined or eliminated, and some have been cut back to part time. The Borough has started to use technology to eliminate manual processes and paper, and staff have received advanced training to enhance their capabilities. Additionally, contracts have been reviewed, and where possible, renegotiated or replaced, and better alternative delivery methods have been implemented. These efforts should be intensified in a programmatic way for short- and long-term continuous savings. I would make it a priority to establish a team of talented staff and volunteers to design such an effort with defined, communicated results and quantified, real, visible benefits.
The Borough needs to be continue to be a source of revenue and service. Just as the Health Department is a supplier of services for a fee to 5 other municipalities, and growing, we need to look for additional opportunities in the way the borough delivers services. It is important that we focus on revenue.
One of the ways we pay for public health services, and the department that delivers them, is to contract out our services to towns that don't have them for a fee. They get the service, but without the overhead. Madison is able to enhance its own services, but share the fixed costs with the other municipalities. That's a shared service and it’s a good way of reducing costs without negatively impacting the residents.
We should continue to focus more on expanding revenue opportunities as well as cutting expenses The model used by the Board of Health should be emulated in developing more shared services going forward.