The action of the St. Joseph County Common Council in voting 5-4 to implement a mega-increase in the Local Option Income Tax signals the beginning of the end for both St. Joseph County, and the City of South Bend. After twenty plus years of inept leadership and excessive spending, the governing officials have again failed to listen to the very people who put them into office. These are the citizens who in the South Bend Tribune poll clearly expressed their desire against the tax increase by a vote of 75% vs. 25%.
While the leadership of the City of Mishawaka voted to not support increased taxation, they also sent a signal that their responsible government has learned to live within its means, which both the County and City of South Bend has failed repeatedly to accomplish. The current shortfall in funding did not just occur, and it is not solely the fault of State Government. These financial shortfalls have been happening for many years. The shortsighted individuals who voted to increase our taxes have all neglected to address or adopt the many logical recommendations outlined in the recent Kernan Commission Report. Had the Kernan suggestions been implemented, we would not have needed these unwarranted tax hikes.
Most insulting is the arrogance of local government to not include a sunset provision eliminating the tax increase in say two years when the national economy should improve. South Bend and the County continue to fund failed projects such as the College Football Hall of Fame, and vote to provide huge sums such as one million dollars for a jumbo-tron television for the front of the new WNIT-TV (Public Broadcasting) building, are just two of many examples. Can’t you just picture throngs of people standing outside the WNIT-TV building watching PBS programs on the $1 million jumbo-tron in the middle of a South Bend winter?
The South Bend School Board is a total joke and embarrassment and the children continue to pay the price of its incompetent conduct. Tragically the failure to dramatically improve test scores, graduation rates, and reduce drop-out statistics will only result in substantial increases in long-term fiscal needs. The School Board’s failures will lead to increased crime, incarceration rates, and the need for more police, lower property values and growing welfare rolls.
What the local government fails to consider is the fact that thousands of local retired taxpaying voters have another option that will lead to the further collapse of the revenue base. We can move out of this jurisdiction to a community where the tax base is well managed and affordable. When the population base drops and new residents no longer want to move into this community, the fiscal problems will be dramatically compounded. I predict that the future of South Bend and St. Joseph County are now in serious jeopardy, and the current government leadership has absolutely nobody to blame but themselves.
The creation of Ignition Park to attract new business sounds good, but why would any responsible corporate executive want to move their business into a community that is crumbling financially. What company would want their employees to move their families into a school system that continues to fail? Anyone with one ounce of sense must know that Notre Dame cannot and should not continue to bail out irresponsible, illogical financial leadership.
We, the taxpaying public, carry a huge blame in this fiasco, because we voted these clowns into office. Maybe they have finally fooled themselves with their fiscal negligence. It is now time for the people who elected them to finally get off their backsides and vote them out of office. Increasing the local tax revenue is only a short-term fix, because our local government must ultimately learn to live within their means. I predict that within the next two years these same politicians will be coming back asking for more money from your pocketbook. We cannot spend more than we make, and our government should be held accountable to function with fiscal responsibility, too.