I am on the verge of being taxed out of my last penny. I am not against paying taxes – for garbage collection, military intervention and protection, police and fire personnel, public education, road maintenance, and other things that I can’t do on my own. I pay $4,000 in annual property taxes, and in addition to the $1,000 I pay in income taxes, it is a small price to pay for public safety, refuse pickup, and relatively safe roads.
But what I won’t put up with is more taxes to be thrown down the rabbit hole of mismanagement and arrogance. Milwaukee County is losing the fiscal battle, and as County Executive Scott Walker continues to suggest cost-saving measures such as privatizing janitors and park management, the county board continues to play the role of a make-work agency and finding new things to tax.
Most of us work in private offices that are cleaned by private cleaning crews after hours. They do a good job. My desk is always sparkling, the garbage can has a fresh bag every morning and my computer monitor is free of fingerprints. The pictures of my children are where I left them, the money I keep in my desk for a mid-day Coke is still in the tray and the keys to the office safe are safe where I left them.
But these private cleaning crews are not good enough for our courthouse. No way. According to Supervisor Toni Clark, these private employees would lead to increased thefts at the courthouse and other county buildings. She actually said these workers would ransack personal belongings and that saving cash for taxpayers wasn’t worth that risk.
Wow, what does she have in her desk that is more important than what is in mine? Maybe Ms. Clark should do as school districts tell their students – don’t bring your iPods, large sums of cash, cell phones and other valuables and leave them in your locker, because they might be stolen. Even by a county employee.
Another new tax on the horizon is a proposed $20 wheel tax on every vehicle in Milwaukee County. Currently only the poor souls in the city of Milwaukee have to pay this, but if County Board Chairman Lee Holloway has his way, everyone in our fair county will see an increase in their vehicle registration. (That’s $75 state, $20 county and another $20 in the city, just to register your car). And for what? $10 million extra dollars that the supervisors could save by privatizing, getting rid of outdated and labor intensive outdoor pools and just cutting their own board budget?
It can be done. Just this Friday, the county board’s finance committee found over $500,000 in the current year’s budget to avert Walker’s promised layoff of 180 county employees this week. The parks, sheriff and individual supervisors found places to cut spending and speed up revenue collections to halt the job cuts. This obviously demonstrates that when the supervisors say they have cut the budget to the bone, that there is still some meat to chew off that leg.
But don’t be lulled into the idea that the county board, or any other taxing authority, will start doing the right thing and begin budgeting with and eye towards reduced spending. They’ll just keep squeezing us until we all stand up and shout – Enough!