PAYING ATTENTION! WITH TOM DUGGAN
By: Tom Duggan – January, 2007
Over the last several months, we have heard members of the Lawrence City Council complain about wasteful city spending while at the same time voicing strong opposition to raising property taxes up to the Proposition 2 1/2 levy limit.
While I agree that there is a lot of wasteful spending in the city, the main reason for that waste is because most of the money being spent does not come from local taxpayers. This results in lack of community interest in how the city spends its money and how much it spends. That is, until officials start talking about raising taxes, and even then only a handful of active residents show up to protest.
I do understand that some Lawrence residents on a fixed income will bear a hardship if property taxes are increased, but the fact is, the Lawrence City Council approved a budget that calls for more than $200 million in spending … and that money has to come from somewhere.
What’s more, it was the Lawrence City Council that approved this amount, knowing that the property owners in Lawrence are only contributing approximately $40 million to the city budget. The rest of the $160+ million is paid for by state taxpayers in North Andover, Methuen, Georgetown, Boxford, Dracut and the rest of the state.
That’s like buying a $2,000 stereo system at Circuit City and only paying $400 bucks for it.
What’s more, hearing councilors pander to their voters by complaining that Lawrencians pay too much in taxes is like complaining that Circuit City is now going to charge you $500 for that $2,000 stereo instead of $400, while someone else is still picking up the rest of the tab.
This leaves the people in surrounding cities and towns who pay the rest of the bill (and fight each year for revenue to keep their own police on the streets) to wonder: When is the city of Lawrence going to start paying its own way? When are city officials going to start kicking in more of their fair share for the $200 million plus in services that the rest of the state is providing?
The $40 million the people of Lawrence are paying for the $200 million in services they receive is simply inadequate. Especially when you factor in another $50 million plus (aproximately) in federal grants that get funneled into city coffers that are not counted in the city’s budget. Just imaging running a business that spends $250 million dollars a year, yet only makes $40 million in revenue to pay for that spending?
It is for this reason that the mayor and City Council have an obligation to raise property taxes to the levy limit. The municipal budget in Lawrence is on welfare from the state and federal government and city officials act like they are entitled to that money without taking any responsibility for how it is spent.
Mayor Sullivan has the right idea. The city of Lawrence needs to get off the welfare dole by slowly starting to pay more so that the rest of the state taxpayers can pay less.
When that happens, you will see more vigilance by city officials in the way they spend money and more interest from the Lawrence taxpayers as to how that money is being spent.