EDITORIAL: Tough choices for tough times

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(File Photo)

It’s been a while since we sang city council’s praises — it’s been a tumultuous couple of months — but our elected leaders made a commendable decision last week.

Though facing expectations of yet another tough economic cycle, city councilors rightly set aside the option of raising real estate taxes as officials begin crafting next year’s budget.

If you missed it, you’re to be forgiven. It came at the tail end of a quiet city council meeting mere days before Thanksgiving. Those who sat through the discussion of a new parking payment smartphone app, various resident board appointments and a detailed — if tedious — examination of the city’s finances were rewarded with seeing city councilors effectively pledge not to hike homeowners’ taxes anytime soon.

Let’s not get too excited, though. They still left City Manager Rashad Young with the flexibility to tweak other taxes and fees as he creates his proposed financial roadmap for fiscal 2015.

But after this year’s stunning 4-cent real estate tax hike, which added about $315 onto the average property owner’s annual bill, the move certainly is welcome.

One difficult decision, though, sets the stage for many more to come. As City Councilor Tim Lovain noted, nixing a major potential source of revenue will mean tough tradeoffs elsewhere.

It’s too early to know where in the city’s multimillion-dollar budget these tradeoffs will pop up, but we imagine they will hit all of us in different ways. We must be prepared for cuts to causes near and dear to us.

And we must be willing to accept them.

This is easier said than done, of course. Even with the most recent tax hike, we witnessed hard-fought battles to save a community pool and restore library funding during the last budget cycle.

Such battles occur every year, with every new budget proposal. Given city council’s decree, we expect debates to be even more contentious this time.
For this next go-around, though, we hope all participants remember the greater good behind the little evils: sparing hard-hit residents from dipping even deeper into their bank accounts.

Don’t get us wrong. We encourage every resident to weigh in on the budget and trumpet — or defend — the causes they support. But let there be no criticisms of a cold-hearted, callous and uncaring city council as it trims, cuts or slashes areas of the budget.

City councilors showed they cared last week.