According to our Eyes, the Bernalillo County Fire Department needs about $5 MILLION for station renovation and equipment replacement. All or part of a 1/4 cent tax increase would be used to fund the endeavor.
We don't blame the chief for asking for the tax increase as the Eyes have it that he genuinely needs at least part of the money that he's requested. Our problem is that it has become necessary for the chief to ask for a tax increase to pay for needed equipment and infrastructure in the first place.
County commissioners approved a $4 million bond deal to finance the purchase and some renovations of Hiland in 2003. They took ownership of the theater from Musical Theatre Southwest, then rented it back to the nonprofit.As you can see, back in 2003 the county was able to come up with some $4 MILLION to purchase the decaying Hiland Theater. Two years later the commission slipped another $1 MILLION past tax payers in a bond issue that was used to fix up the Hiland but sold as a general fixer upper for county buildings.
County officials intended for rent from the group to cover debt payments on the theater purchase. Eventually, however, Musical Theatre Southwest was unable to afford keeping the Hiland open, and the county began looking at other options.
The county is closing in on a $42 million deal to acquire the 500 Marquette office building, once home to the swanky Petroleum Club. The 15-story building lies across the street from the County Commission's current home, the City Hall complex it shares with Albuquerque city government and the water utility authority.The county seems to be able to come up with $4 MILLION or even $42 MILLION on short notice as long as it's for a cathedral for themselves or a theater for the profitably challenged. But when it comes to public safety - you know, police, fire, detention - there's not enough money to go around, so we need a tax increase.
What that tells us is that the county is busy spending money on things it shouldn't to the detriment of the things that it should. Government is tasked with certain functions that are core responsibilities, public safety is chief among them. In the county's case, they are also responsible for the operation of the West Side Jail.
When voters are forced to decide whether or not to vote for a tax to fund basic services, they are actually funding other non-essential spending - usually benefiting a very few. Whether it's a theater for the profitably challenged, a crystal cathedral for the commission, a downtown arena, or a shiny new trolley, spending outside of the core functions and responsibilities of government inevitably result in higher taxes.
We are -and have been - in a crisis of upside down priorities. Our governments are spending money meant for core functions on programs that are not a part of government's intent. Meanwhile, governments raise taxes to pay for core functions that should have been a top priority to begin with.
In reality, public safety taxes are an admission that government is failing at its job and ignoring its responsibilities - much like a gambler betting their food or rent money. The difference being one ends up being homeless and hungry, the other simply raises taxes.