City budget more good news for taxpayers

ANYONE WHO WAS OPPOSED to the city of Plymouth hiring a full-time administrator five years ago should have changed their opinion by now.

There are many reasons why, but the biggest should come with their next property tax bill.

For the sixth straight year, the City Council is poised to adopt a city budget that includes no increase in the property tax levy, which is just over $4 million – something unprecedented in the city’s history.

The proposed budget also decreases total spending – less than $7.25 million – for the second consecutive year and the fourth time in five years.

Those numbers, and not the property tax rate, are the true measure of how effective a governing body is in their budgeting efforts.

Tax rates are driven both by spending and total property tax values in a community, over which the tax levy is spread. That can lead to fluctuations in the tax rate only partially related to – and not always reflective of – spending. A case in point is the city’s tax rate over the past five years which – despite an unchanging tax levy – has been as high as $7.05 per $1,000 of assessed valuation and as low as $6.63 (in this budget) as total property values have fluctuated in the city.

Spending and the tax levy are the true measure of budgeting efficiency and in those areas the city of Plymouth is measuring up well for its constituents.

That’s due, in no small part, to the efforts of City Administrator/ Utilities Manager Brian Yerges.

Yerges came on board in the summer of 2010 and it’s no coincidence that each of the annual city budgets he has been responsible for since being hired have seen a flat tax levy and stable or reduced spending.

Here at The Review, we editorialized for many, many years that the city and its residents would benefit from full-time professional management of city government and its budget.

We really had to look no further than Sheboygan County government to see the benefits of such management, as the hiring of a full-time administrator there led to a welcome downward trend over the years in county spending and property tax levies after a too-long period of stormy budgeting processes that too often led to large, even double-digit percentage increases in taxes and spending.

It seemed logical to us that having one person – a chief executive officer, if you will – in charge of the budget process, marshaling all the resources and leading everyone involved in a common, beneficial direction would be beneficial.

Without such a person, the governmental budgeting process too often became a case of many different voices all raised for their own agendas without a leader to blend them into a melodious chorus all singing from the same page.

A competent, capable administrator should be able to take a full-forest view of the process, rather than having an unmanaged collection of trees.

The city of Plymouth was fortunate to be able to hire such a competent, capable manager in Yerges and city taxpayers are among those reaping the benefits.

Of course, Yerges has done much more than just manage the city’s budget capably – although that would be enough in and of itself to more than justify his hiring.

His accomplishments since coming to Plymouth include obtaining grants and other funding to help finance city operations and finance worthwhile projects that might otherwise never happen, streamlining city operations to create savings, setting up procedures and agencies to help develop a vision for the city’s future, and much more.

All of it adds up to a value to the city and its citizens that far eclipses the cost of the position – which is what we at The Review said, again and again, for many, many years.

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