While Arnold residents are focused on Cardinal baseball or potentially the 2016 race for president, city officials have their eyes on the November 3, 2015 election. On that date, voters in the city will be asked to approve a half-cent sales tax increase which will fund stormwater and infrastructure improvements. I recommend that voters show up and say no to this tax hike.
Since nothing else will be on the ballot, Arnold will probably have to spend $30,000 or more to hold the election, instead of just waiting until the council election in April. But the city probably figures it can get a better (read:lower) turnout in November. In Arnold’s ideal world, there will be 30 voters in November, and they will all vote yes while you pesky opponents will stay home.
As Mayor Ron Counts admitted in the August 27 Leader, “The biggest problem in the city, the thing people come up to the mic about (at Arnold City Council meetings) is stormwater problems.” But despite that, what has the city done for these residents? Precious little. Meanwhile, the council has passed pet program after pet program: subdivision beautification, streetlight subsidies, a co-working facility, and a farmers market. Yes, these projects are relatively inexpensive, but they show us what council priorities are. The council has also engaged in major giveaways to developers and big business, most recently with the Arnold can plant. And don’t forget the hemorrhaging rec center and golf course.
I feel like the stormwater-afflicted homeowners of Arnold are being held hostage. If council members want to do something, they take from city revenues. But if these homeowners want relief? Sorry, you’re gonna need a tax increase before we can help you.
Recall that the city just sold its sewer system to American Water, which netted the city $9 million. What about this money? Yes, the city is about ready to proceed with stormwater projects on Melody Lane and Farmcrest Drive, but what about the rest of the money? We know from the 2016 budget that $108,500 of the money is to be transferred to the rec center and $14,000 will go to the golf course. Another $170,000 goes to the stormwater fund. Here’s what Counts said about the money in May:
However, Counts said, much of the $9.2 million will be left after these project are complete.
We need to be very careful in spending this money,” he said. “This is a one-time thing. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
“As conservative as I am, I will really be recommending that we invest the money that is left over. This is something we can use for the future.”
Is it conservative to put that money away and then raise taxes? I don’t think so. Do we trust this council to not come up with new pet projects for the money? I don’t.
Just like American Water heavily funded the campaign, in the face of little opposition, to pass the vote on the sewer sale, a group has been formed to promote this sales tax. It is called Building a Better Arnold. The campaign committee treasurer is Fox School Board member Vern Sullivan (practicing for a future Fox tax hike, perhaps?), and the deputy treasurer is some Hillsboroan named Lisa French who is or was a legal assistant at the law firm of Arnold city attorney Bob Sweeney, according to the BBB website. Her phone number is also the listed number for the committee. I’m sure her work for the committee is entirely voluntary, done on her own time, and in no way constitutes an in-kind donation from Sweeney’s law firm to the campaign. Why wouldn’t a Hillsboro resident have a strong interest in Arnold tax rates?
Sweeney has donated $100 to the committee, but given the massive income he earns from Arnold (over $150,000 last year), they should expect him to pony up more than that.
Other donors are Warren Sign Company and Kozeny-Wagner, both of Arnold, who have both given $5,000. Kozeny-Wagner undoubtedly stands to win some of the contracts for construction projects that will take place if the tax hike passes.
High Taxes Already
As I noted here, Arnold’s current sales tax rates (page 8) range from a base of 8.35% to 9.35% at Arnold Commons to 10.35% in the Ridgecrest TDD. Add 0.5% to these numbers if this tax is approved. This is in addition to the sneaky 5% tax on sewer bills that the council passed in May.