Crazy inflation rates have hit us all. The same effects you feel as an individual are also hitting the city. We must find ways to make things stretch where possible, but we also must meet greater demand. The city is not immune to the effects of higher prices.
Like you, the city pays more for goods and services; that cost must eventually be passed on to citizens because the city operates as a break-even organization, not as a profit center. There are limited allowances for cities to charge more in some areas. We have chosen to operate net-neutral budgets for a long time to try and keep taxes and fees as low as possible. We continue this practice of only charging for actual costs, but the rising costs to us must be passed through to break through. The city does not have the ability to operate at a loss like you may have heard in the news. In Utah, we are required by law to operate a balanced budget – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. City-wide philosophy is to break even, not generate profits.
One specific example is our quality police force. At the first of this year, we experienced significant losses of police officers who left for higher wages offered by other cities. Where there were national cries to defund police, we stepped up to fund competitive wages for those still here and replace those who left. There are fewer qualified applicants than there are open, unfilled positions for sworn officers in the state, and that has driven statewide. Our city is not immune from this upward pressure on wages. Furthermore, we have been blessed with many talented, well-trained officers, and it would be a setback to try to start over with a large number of inexperienced officers among an understaffed department. The decision was to be competitive in order to retain those officers.
Another example is that, this year in April, we began providing Paramedic services based in the city. The service was previously performed by the county, and the county is ending that service. The city is now providing that vital service to our growing population. Again, wages for paramedics have escalated with so many positions needing to be filled in our county. Action taken resulted with no gap in critical services, which our citizens could have required at any time.
Yet another example is that the state legislature has placed an unfunded requirement on cities to meter secondary water. In anticipation of these changes, we have been requiring this of new development, but now, we must retrofit the thousands of connections that predate that requirement. It will take years to get our city fit with these meters, and it will require additional manpower just to meet the state’s deadline.
The city uses gas in vehicles and equipment; we all know gas prices are higher. It costs us more to fix a mile of road than in prior years because asphalt and concrete cost more. Replacement parts, contract services, literally everything we pay for, costs more. Inflation is hitting the city too.
There will be a public hearing at city hall on August 9th to discuss all the expenses that go into the proposed tax increase. Like most of you, I don’t like paying taxes. I wish for taxes and fees to be the lowest possible. I am not the decision maker, but I have worked with your city council to find solutions to these challenges. You can call me if you want to talk about these or other issues. I do my best to be a mayor who is available to the people and accountable. All information is available online, and you can reach out directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-927-7752.
Syracuse City Mayor