City staff, the City Commission, and the citizens themselves often speak of taxpayers and hard-earned tax dollars when considering how and how much should or should not be spent on this, that, or the other thing. And all of them - all of us - often propose or protest such spending based on its impact on taxpayers.
That’s all well and good of course and certainly is a consideration, but I would like to take note of the fact that the taxpayers don’t actually pay all the bills. Not even close.
The city’s general fund - 128 million dollars, and the resource used for public safety and quality of life - gets only 25 percent of its revenue from taxpayers, which means, if we simply put our hard-earned tax dollars in one bucket it would not pay for the police department.
It is, I think, an exercise in silliness to decide which dollar from which source pays for which service or benefit. Once the funds are collected, they collectively pay for everything. Would you let your neighbor decide not to pay for the Parks and Rec department because he doesn’t use the parks? I don’t think so. That’s not how it works.
I recognize that numbers in the millions can be intimidating and beyond the ordinary experience of we ordinary citizens, so I suggest taking a look at the scale of the General Fund by bringing it down to a more ordinary level - 128 dollars, say. The equivalent of a phone or cable bill perhaps.
The share of it from our hard-earned tax dollars is about $34.00.
The proposed spending that animated the last Budget Hearing, The Mayor’s homelessness initiative: 0.20 - two dimes.
Commissioner Troller’s ask for another $50,000 for retirees: 0.05 - a nickel.
As a point of reference, the budgeted support for Lakeland’s creative economy - the “arts” - is a quarter.
As is the estimated expense for moving the Confederate monument.
The insistence on the part of some of us that tax dollars not pay for what we oppose leads to convoluted calculations on what those dollars do - and should - pay for.
I say we cannot tell them apart and if we could allow taxpayers to pick and choose we would be in a helluva mess. This is no way to run a city.
Once you’ve paid your taxes, all of those dollars belong to all of us, and we have elected representatives and hired a management team to ensure that all of them - along with all of the other revenue sources - are pooled together to create and maintain the kind of city and community we all want to be part of.
Please propose, oppose, promote or protest whatever features of the community that you feel passionately about. Make your voice heard. Write to the commissioners, Vote for officials who will represent you.
But please, don't tell us we can't have a dog park because you don't have dog.