Dover Taxpayers forgetten no longer 14 June, 2011Posted by David Anderson in Uncategorized.
I am pleased that free market and fiscal restraint has taken hold in the Capital city. We are closing a 3.6 million dollar shortfall without layoffs, tax increases, or utility rate increases. We have reduced the amount taken from the electric fund and are giving back money in the fuel adjustment as scheduled.
I am honored to be part of some important committees right in the middle of the struggle to improve our future. Legislative and finance, Parks. Recreation, and Community Enhancement (which includes the federal block grants), and tonight the mayor appointed me to be a director of the Downtown Dover Development Partnership. I also chair the Construction appeals board.
Tonight we advanced some important items. We advanced some pro-growth development ideas. One was to reclaim empty box stores and keep the ones we have with an abatement program which gives tax abatement to improvements or new leases which create long term jobs.
Another which just pleases me to no end is a streamlining of the zoning and permitting process. The only disagreement I had with the final product worth talking about is a reduction of the notification of neighboring property owners in the staff proposal from 300 feet back to 200 feet. I think in the long run, more information builds consensus and it was a small trade off for automatic approvals if the historic commission did not respond in 45 days and extending the time that approvals are valid, and many other provisions. Our zoning process has been killing jobs and now we have a chance. Ann Marie Townsend is my new favorite bureaucrat. My favorites are changing daily because so many of the staff are stepping up. In reality, I have too many favorites to name but hear is a start, Donna Mitchell, Bill Neaton, Traci McDowell and of course our new interim city manager, Scott Koenig. I look forward to working with Zak Carter as well.
We are off to a positive start.
There are still tough decisions. There were no raises in the budget except the ones for two unions contractually obligated. Non union employees received no raises. The Police are negotiating for raises this year, but I am not optimistic their is any money for that beyond the generous step raises in their contract. Tonight, we began the discussion about getting the other than pension post retirement benefits under control (OPED). I believe very strongly that we need to stop paying for Medicare Part B coverage. Current retirees do not need to worry. I think there would only be two votes to open that discussion up. It is a non issue. The question is should we continue to pay the premium for non-union future retirees? The unions gave that up and new employees do not get it. It is a two tier retirement arrangement that is patently unfair on its face as well as ever increasing in cost. When I look at proposed changes in Medicare, I get the feeling that premiums will go up an unknown amount and the city giving a blank check to pay whatever to a program that you have no control over is insane. The military doesn’t do it. The state doesn’t do it. The counties don’t do it. The federal retirement program doesn’t do it. Even Dover unionized employees do not have this benefit. It was an interesting experiment, but it has proven itself to be problematic. We need to cut our losses and focus on putting money aside to actually fund our future employee retirement benefits in the out years. That is my view. It may have gotten jeering from the employee peanut gallery, but in the long run it is best for both the taxpayers and employees.
We also approved in legislative and finance committee a review of the employee health benefits. Kent County pays less than we do per employee. We may be able to provide the level of benefits we desire to give our employees at a lower cost. We may need to pull out of the state system. We are actually subsidizing state employee’s benefits because we do not get any refunds when the costs are actually lower than projected. The money once given to the state stays with the state. I would personally like to avoid degrading the benefit package. We need to find more cost effective ways to provide those benefits. The employees deserve our support, but so do the taxpayers who are often forgotten.
Tax and rate payers, you are forgotten no more.
Councilman David Anderson