News Column

EDITORIAL: Tough decisions in Piedmont

July 18, 2014

The Anniston Star, Ala.

July 18--Piedmont is a solvent city, but city leaders say it takes nearly all of the city's annual revenues to pay the bills. It's understandable those city leaders would like to boost Piedmont's reserve funds to ward off most future economic storms.

Call it smart financial planning.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Councilman Ben Keller brought up one of the 10 considerations he and his colleagues had discussed at a work session the night before. He made a motion to increase the city's sales tax by one cent, which would raise the overall sales-tax rate in Piedmont to 10 cents on the dollar, putting it in line with most other municipalities in Calhoun County.

Keller's motion drew crickets.

No other council member seconded the idea. Case closed.

Keller's wisdom was spot-on correct: governments with money problems, regardless of size or scope, can't continually rely on the myopic attitude of reducing costs without creating new streams of revenue. Reducing costs is good. So, too, is additional revenue. Combined, they are a sensible, if not simplistic, way for governments to get a quick boost for its sagging finances.

Such increases don't come without risks, especially political. Voters aren't usually keen on supporting politicians who vote for tax hikes, whatever the reason. And for consumers at the lower end of the earnings scales, regressive efforts such as sales taxes hit them harder than they do those in the middle and the upper edges.

That said, cities (and states, for that matter) have to raise enough money to operate. Clearly, however, the Piedmont City Council was not ready to put its name on a tax increase that would have drawn its share of critics. On this, we'll give the council members a bit of a pass -- for now.

If Piedmont's financial wiggle-room is indeed as slim as the council says, the day may come when this decision will return. Trimming costs elsewhere only gets cities so far. Governing, even in small towns, isn't for the faint of heart.


(c)2014 The Anniston Star (Anniston, Ala.)

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Source: Anniston Star (AL)

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