April 9, 2014 10:25:59 AM
Thursday, the city council will hold a public hearing on issuing bonds to finance improvements to Columbus' roads, drainage and sidewalks. Those $5 million worth of bonds, which will be paid back over the next 20 years, will be funded by a 2-mill tax increase. Residents can weigh in on that plan at the public hearing, which will be held at 5 p.m. at the Columbus Municipal Complex.
We encourage citizens to attend that hearing in order to offer their input on the proposed tax increase.
The plan places the burden of paying for infrastructure repairs on Columbus' property owners. A homeowner whose property is assessed at $100,000 would see a $20 increase in annual taxes.
While this type of plan is certainly not abnormal, some cities place the burden on the people who use the roads. Los Angeles just passed a sales tax hike, which will fund their needed repairs. Such an approach places the burden on people who use the roads, regardless of their residency status.
We don't advocate one approach over another, only for citizens and the council to consider all of the options.
Earlier this year, council members took a tour of each ward to get a first-hand look at the conditions that warrant improvements. We applaud the council for getting out into all parts of the city in an effort to understand the problems that exist outside each council member's ward. While we expect council members to be an advocate for their wards -- each has already started compiling a list of priorities for their ward -- they are also charged with ensuring the overall well-being of the city.
As was the case with its last bond project for infrastructure improvement which ended in 2010, the money will be divided equally among the city's six wards. As was also the case previously, the number of needed improvements will exceed the amount of money available to make those improvements.
From a political standpoint, dividing the money evenly is attractive. We don't think that is the best approach for the city though.
If you were to make a list of the 20 most critical infrastructure needs, it is highly unlikely that you would find those needs to be evenly dispersed among the city's six wards.
Columbus needs a long-term plan that addresses infrastructure maintenance. Some cities rate the condition of each street and sidewalk on a scale of 0-100 and implement a multi-year plan to systematically address the worst items first.
Infrastructure priorities don't change with each election. For this reason, a long term plan would give each sitting council a pre-set list of repairs to address.
Such a plan fairly addresses the constant need of maintenance in the city and helps prevent the possibility of individual councilmen funneling money to pet projects.
We also recognize that these types of improvements are a constant reality. As long as there is a city, there will be a need to repair and replace infrastructure.
That must start with a plan which includes priorities.
In this case at least, we much prefer fairness to equality.