By the time this column is published, your City Council will have passed the budget for 2005, which includes a modest property tax increase of .0199 cents per $100 valuation of your property. I supported this increase because I felt the additional funds were badly needed to support a 2 percent, across-the-board raise for all public non-uniformed employees to be effective Jan. 1, 2005, and a merit bonus to be paid to our very best employees, as determined by the senior administrative staff, ranging from 1 percent to 4 percent, effective May 1, 2005.
No one in this category of employee had received any raise for four years, while during the same time their medical benefits had continued to increase in cost. Morale had slipped to an all-time low and many of our long term, experienced personnel were starting to look elsewhere. That is an occurrence that we as a city cannot afford to have happen. Additionally, the increase in taxes allows us to funnel more general-fund dollars into crime prevention and other public safety programs.
In other news, it seems I hit a nerve of many of you last month while discussing the Farmer’s Market in open session. Let me assure you I am not an advocate for doing away with the Market. I am far from it. I am for spending the money it takes to make the entire premises safe, clean, accessible and product-diversified.
However, the last two times I have visited the Market, homeless individuals have approached me before I got five steps from my car. I do not want my wife having to do that alone. The only protestors in the room at the open session were the food brokers. There was not a farmer to be seen. Does that tell you something about who is running the store?
If we want to keep this institution, we should get busy making it better – including providing adequate funds to operate it – instead of complaining about a few more dollars in rent. I guess we could raise the property tax rate another .0010 cents.
The main issues the Council will deal with in the early part of 2005 will be the homeless in-take center, the Trinity River Project, and Economic Development in our southern sector. Our streets are starting to show the results of the 2003 bond package, and our crime rate citywide has shown a 7-10 percent decrease. Northeast substation Chief David Brown promises to get ahead of the curve.
Have a fun and safe Halloween and a great Thanksgiving. And, as always, thank you again for allowing me to be your representative downtown.