Blame it on DeSoto County and other suburban sirens that lure urban taxpayers with promises of lower taxes, better schools and fewer problems -- temptations that result in higher taxes, declining schools and more problems for
Blame it on former
Blame it on current city officials who are trying to avoid tax increases or service cuts by shifting the burden of generous retirement benefits from the people who agreed to pay for them to the people who are supposed to get them.
Blame it on
Blame it on anonymous accountants who suddenly decided that local governments should no longer be allowed to rig their balance sheets.
Blame whomever you like for the city's current financial struggles, and the fear and loathing it has generated.
That doesn't help
Wilson, 52, has been watching over us for 25 years.
Whenever an elderly person falls, or a child chokes, or a man gets shot, or a woman gets beaten, or anyone has a stroke or heart attack or asthma attack, whenever an illness or injury suddenly threatens someone's life, we call Wilson and he responds first -- usually within four minutes.
In exchange, we paid him about
It was a good deal for Wilson and a bargain for us.
Over the years, Wilson's been shot at, threatened with knives and other weapons, attacked by dogs, yelled and cussed at, all for trying to keep his end of the bargain.
He hasn't had a raise in five years. Now, the city is making plans to quintuple his health-insurance premiums, if he retires.
"I feel like they pulled the rug out from under me," Wilson said after he attended Tuesday's
"I just want what I was promised. I just want what I've earned."
It's good that the city is finally facing its financial realities.
New accounting standards and state laws are forcing the city to change the way it keeps its books.
Fixed costs such as pensions, retiree benefits and other long-term debts now make up nearly half of the city's operating budget. (By comparison, it's about 20 percent in
The city can't afford to be in the health-insurance business anymore. As more people live longer, old-fashioned pension plans aren't sustainable anymore.
The city's population and tax base isn't growing fast enough to make up for rising costs, ill-advised decisions by former officials, or larger economic fluctuations.
"If you think growing pains are tough, try shrinking pains," said
That's the bottom line, but the bottom line isn't going to respond when we call for help.
To their credit, city officials are making allowances for retirees over 65 who don't qualify for
They say they will help current employees find other affordable health-care plans. They say no one who has a pension will lose it, no one who has made pension-plan contributions will lose a penny of it.
"There are no easy solutions," said
"There are better solutions," said
That's the challenge. We owe it to
The balance sheet, no matter how accurate it finally might be, can't lift a finger when lives hang in the balance.
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