Guest Column: What’s the purpose of Freeport’s Financial Task Force?

Freeport’s Annual Treasurer’s Report of 1996-1997 reported total city revenues of $7,370,642.51,which included property tax revenues of $652,581.51.

Since these reports, the city changed its accounting system; prior Finance Director Jim Leitzinger adjusted the total revenue figure, saying it was equivalent to about $10 million under the new system.

Current Finance Director Craig Joesten recently reported that 2005-2006 revenues were $13,655,881 (after the 2003 tax increases—these figures include water and sewer revenues) and that property tax revenue was $2,154,184.

Question: How much revitalization occurred in Freeport during this 10-year period? How much new property was constructed and new territory annexed? Plainly put, are we three times the city of 10 years ago?

According to City Treasurer reports, in 1994, the Weis/Gubelman Food & Beverage Tax revenue was $710,462.76; in 2003, it was $748,253 (not much change until the 2003 .25 percent sales tax increase); the 2006 revenue was $809,731. Revenues haven’t kept up with inflation.

Local government spending drives property taxes—control spending, you control taxes! If you don’t control either, then taxes must be increased to collect sufficient monies to pay ever-increasing overhead.

When Gitz first ran for mayor, he said there was zero bonded debt to be paid with property taxes, and budgets were reasonably balanced. The Gitz administration and (Gaulrapp) council made a habit of transferring money and depleting corporate reserves (this money was accounted for as “income/revenue” to make the budget appear “balanced”).

According to recent reports, the city’s economy is “stagnant”—annual revenue appears to be “fixed” at between $10.5-$11.5 million (excluding the money collected from the 2003 tax increases, which is due to sunset in 2008).

It would appear the purpose of the Financial Task Force is to affirm this administration’s budget recommendations to either support extending the prior tax increases and/or to create some new ones.

Where’s the out-of-the-box thinking promised?

Contributing writer Marianne L. Garvens is a Freeport resident.

From the Aug. 30-Sept. 5, 2006, issue

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