I came across this very informative article on Planetizen about the city of Colorado Springs, CO. This conservative right-wing city has some of the lowest property tax rates in the entire country. With low property tax revenue, the city is forced to lean heavily on sales taxes to fund its coffers. Thanks to the recession, this revenue stream has all but dried up, leaving the city with a 40 million dollar budget shortfall.
Now, Colorado Springs is trying to do more with less. Residents have voted down a recent ballot initiative that would have raised property taxes to help fund public services like transit, road maintenance, public safety (police & fire), etc. The city has had to turn off street lights, remove trash cans, close pools, slash municipal services, and thin its employees.
Donations have stepped up to save some of these services. Adopt a “Whatever” has allowed some street lights, fountains, and trash cans to return, but this leads to service inequalities between the rich and poor. Those that choose to adopt street lights and trash cans can no doubt afford to do so, but what about those who can’t? Do the poor not deserve street lights, trash cans, and pothole free roads?
As fellow contributor Rosa said in her recent post about the difference between China and the U.S., “… the poor lack any service even close to what’s offered in the States….” What separates America from China is the fact that public services do not discriminate against rich and poor. City Counselmember Jan Martin sums it up best when said “…we’re creating a city of haves and have-nots.” Lets hope this model of low taxes and small government doesn’t spread to the rest of the country.