There’s something not quite right about the way the city government is trying to convince you to approve a new sales tax.
In approving the idea last week, city commissioners said the tax would be basically a vote on whether to go ahead with a list of major projects. Those projects include building up the flood-control levee, adding on to the airport runway, redeveloping Aggieville, improving the Douglas Center and pumping money into what’s called the “North Campus Corridor,” near the intersection of Denison and Kimball.
That’s a big list, and of course checking them off will require a lot of money, somewhere around $90 million. Hence the idea of a new one-third-percent sales tax to support the city budget. That tax would raise about $100 million over 30 years. So far, so good.
The trouble we have is with posing the question as a matter of doing those projects or not.
Mayor Mike Dodson, a very practical sort of person, put it that way, and of course he has a point. Without a new source of money, it will be difficult for the city to come up with the money to pay for those projects. Commissioner Wynn Butler, who also has a solid mind when it comes to tax and budget issues, put it bluntly: Without the new money, those projects won’t happen.
The thing is, it might be difficult, but it’s not impossible. The city could certainly raise property taxes enough to pay for those projects. That’s not popular, and therefore would be tough to do politically. But that doesn’t make it impossible, and to go around saying that is not really honest.
It’s also clear that the money from the proposed sales tax would actually just be dumped into the general city till. It’s not actually being earmarked for any particular projects, the way “special sales taxes” are. City voters have passed those several times before; they also come with an expiration date, whereas this one is never-ending.
It’s a tough sell, and we don’t blame commissioners too much for trying to frame it as a sort of referendum on the projects. We just want everybody to understand, over the next five months, that that’s not exactly what’s being proposed.