Budget Crises Make Mayors Feel Like “Bad Guys”

from Reuters

[America's mayors are facing tough fiscal times. Reader's Digest's We Hear You America program is offering money and promotional support to help enrich the quality of life in towns and cities across the country. Vote for your town now at ReadersDigest.com/America]

Mayors of U.S. cities and towns feel they are being cast as the “bad guys” as they attempt to address budget crises, often through tax hikes and service cuts, according to a poll released on Tuesday.

A Reader’s Digest survey found that 48 percent of mayors struggle with the bad guy image and 12 percent said they were frustrated by the lack of appreciation for having to make tough decisions.

Almost all of the 52 mayors of cities of 20,000 people or more said they “are anxiously seeking new revenue sources other than taxes” and 65 percent are considering raising fees for services.

More than half, 52 percent, of mayors anticipate cutting spending in their next budgets.

Services such as maintaining city parks have already been cut in the cities administered by 71 percent of the mayors. Parks were the most sacrificed during recent budget crises – 44 percent said they reduced park maintenance and service – followed by libraries.

Meanwhile, 37 percent say they will provide the same level of spending in their next budget as they have in recent ones, showing it may take some time for civic budgets to begin growing again.

The housing bust, financial crisis and recession created a trifecta of pain for state, county and city governments, and the housing downturn’s effects linger, hurting the revenues of many U.S. cities, according to the National League of Cities.

Due to a lag in property valuations used to determine tax bills, the bursting of the real estate bubble hit city revenues hard in 2010, when property-tax revenues dropped for the first time in 15 years.

With states currently pulling back aid to local governments, many cities are preparing for the pain to persist for years to come.

Reader’s Digest, which last year turned its attention to funding initiatives and projects that could improve local communities, asked the mayors if they had been “surprised by the depth and length of the current economic crisis.”

More than half – 54 percent – were surprised while 23 percent said they were “very surprised.”

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Jan Paschal)

  • Your Comments

    • Muncie Morger

      I am voting for my beautiful hometown of Fort Benton, Montana located along the Missouri River. We are 2 miles long and 4 blocks wide.  We have one stop light on the highway.  We are a small community of approximately 1,500 residents.  We have many retirees.  We are the Birthplace of Montana, the oldest city established in 1846, and are the most historic town in the state.  We have a Lewis and Clark historical background, the L & C Memorial Bronze statue, the Shep Bronze/burial place of the Forever Faithful dog, the Old Fort, the Old Bridge, two of the best Museums (one with a fantastic Village,) in MT, the Grand Union Hotel (oldest working hotel west of the Mississippi,) the Chouteau County Courthouse as we are the county seat, and a wonderful Levee Walking Trail along the Missouri.  The County is mostly wheat farmers and the Hospital in town employs the most people.  We have 7 Churches and 7 local bars.

      We are in need of a new wastewater facility.  It will be very expensive and would result in rate increases.  Grants are being sought, however if we even get those, we will be in a great deal of debt.  I would like to see my Mayor relieved of some of taking on a burden like this project. 

      Thank you for letting me cast my vote.

      Sincerely,

      Muncie Morger
      902 14th Street
      Fort Benton, MT 59442
      1-406-622-3217 (after 2:00 p.m.)
      e-mail  muncie1929@itstriangle.com