This month, the Oak Ridge City Council will establish your property tax rate for 2014 via the approval of our annual city budget. And though it appears that taxes will remain flat, our excessive spending levels are unsustainable and continue to hinder our ability to compete with surrounding communities.
In spite of all the new developments happening as of late, if council approves the budget as proposed, residents and businesses will continue to feel the financial crunch for quite some time. Not only will we retain one of the highest property tax rates in the state, but we’ll also retain one of the largest per capita debt levels in the region. (At nearly $7,000 per person, we have more than four times that of Knox County residents and more than seven times that of Knoxville residents). A dozen more chicken places and grocery store relocations won’t make a dent in the average Oak Ridger’s bills.
If we are to make any kind of progress, we need a strategy that aims to increase revenue while reducing expenditures. This column will focus on increasing our revenue base. I will address budgetary inefficiencies and waste in a follow-up piece next week. [Read more…]