Time for the city to solve financial woes

Steve Hunter’s article, “City faces ‘bleak’ financial future” (Kent Reporter, June 23), painted a bleak picture of Kent’s financial situation. But I would like to point out that recent Kent fiscal news has not been all bad.

Not too long ago I read that the city had collected a record amount of B&O taxes. And I seem to recall hearing that the ShoWare Center is now pulling its own weight.

Good news.

And what about the recent agreement to sell the par 3 golf course to a developer? That will definitely help. Let a private company run it – the city will get out from under the overhead expenses and collect sales tax money.

We have time to deal with financial “cliffs.”

What to do?

We must reevaluate what a city should do for its residents. Get back to basics – public safety, roads, water, sewer and promoting business.

Parks are out of control. What business does the city have in accumulating a backlog of $60 million in maintenance and repairs? Sorry, we cannot afford anything near that. Time to make some hard choices and cut, close some parks. Sell some of them.

If you go through Finance Director Aaron BeMiller’s list of remedies, four of his five points are tax increases. The last, “reduce expenses, possible staff cuts,” is his vague hat tip toward alternatives.

Some alternatives:

• Reduce the B&O tax a bit. Compete with the other cities in the area. Give businesses a reason to locate here. More business activity in Kent means more Kent jobs and more tax revenue.

• Reduce the city sales tax a bit. Give people another reason to shop in Kent.

• Re-evaluate the city mission.

• Require all non-essential programs to be self-sustaining – or drop them.

Governments and their agencies are taking all our money to pay for their “essential” services. That has to stop. Governments exist to serve us, not vice versa.

City officials need better planning for these things you all see as “cliffs.” With better planning, they’d be more like speed bumps. Refocus the city vision to be more frugal. Grow local business activity here so that tax income will go up without a rate increase, which will probably actually reduce it.

We have bright people, some fiscal bright spots and time. So no excuses. Let’s get it done.

– Ted Reinhart

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