On Saturday, March 16 voters in the city of Gonzales will go to the polls to decide if the city’s assessed tax rate should be abated and rolled back from the current rate of .3050 to .2248. The impetus for the ballot initiative is because the tax rate was increased by three cents (from .2750) for this year’s budget. A citizen’s petition was circulated to roll back the rate, was certified, and that is why the abatement question is up for a vote.
We think the voters should vote against the rollback, but we do have some reservations.
Let’s review the situation. The City of Gonzales is facing a serious financial crisis. It is on the brink of a budgetary cliff. Through failure to maintain and upgrade its facilities and failure to protect its revenue streams, the city now finds itself on the financial abyss of near bankruptcy. The current city leadership is trying to address critical budgetary and infrastructure problems, but they inherited a financial mess and are trying to solve the failures of the past to keep the city’s financial and infrastructure health in good order.
Unfortunately, they don’t have a lot of time to do that. They need capital, and they need it now. The city must upgrade water storage tanks, water wells, streets, electrical infrastructure, waste water treatment plant equipment and upgrades, streets, curbs, sidewalks and a myriad of other expensive and costly endeavors that are fundamental to providing a good quality of life for all the citizens of Gonzales. This is going to cost money, and the city’s cash reserves are dangerously low. The city is one unexpected breakdown away from financial disaster and ruin.
To roll back the tax rate is the last thing voters should be doing right now. They need to step up and help fund the improvements and maintenance issues the city is facing. No one likes higher taxes, but it is the price we must pay to have a good quality of life.
There are reasons that give us pause, however. Lack of oversight, vision and management in the past has brought us to the edge of the cliff. Voters and citizens have a right to demand that our city fathers pay better attention to the details of the budget and infrastructure maintenance. They have a right to ask where the money is going, how is it going to be spent, and most importantly, what is the plan to permanently fix the problems for the future. The city needs to provide a better road map to the public as to what needs to be done, how it can be done, and when it will be done.
There is an argument that says, “voters should not have to pay for the mismanagement of the past.” That is a good point. But it is also a head-in-the-sand approach to fixing the paramount issues in front of us. To vote for the rollback because of anger at past neglect does not fix any problem; it only exacerbates it.
Plus, we also note that the city tax rate is still substantially lower than all surrounding communities. Granted, we are not comparing apples to apples because each community has different assets as far as industry, retail and manufacturing, but when you compare Gonzales’ .3050 rate to Lockhart’s .7107 or Seguin’s .5412 (both of which have more retail and similar manufacturing bases) you can see we are not being taxed to death by the city.
On March 16, there is a city-wide election where voters can actually do something about protecting the city’s economic future. We think voters should oppose the roll back for the financial health of the city. Vote “AGAINST” the rollback.
Then after the vote, please be diligent to make sure the money is being spent properly and for the long-term health of the community. An engaged and informed electorate is the only way to insure the long-term health and viability of our community.