Former mayoral candidate Vince Winegardner recently emailed Town Board members and other town officials to propose a new way of paying for the annual subsidy to MI-Connection Communications System – the local communications network the town owns with Mooresville. There are many questions about how it might work and whether it’s even legal. Here’s his proposal.
To the editor:
MI Connection is no longer a funny joke about questionable decision making by a few. The debt is a serious threat to Davidson’s ability to fund its legitimate needs. In FY 2011 it was a $1.9 million subsidy, in FY 2012 it is a $2.4 million subsidy, and in FY 2013 it is expected to be approximately $2.4 million. These numbers represent about 24% of the budget and overshadow every town decision. The citizens continue to patiently wait for the situation to resolve itself but this non-governmental expense is unlikely to be addressed by the current leadership.
To address this fiscal reality, I am proposing to our town leadership that they make the MI Connection debt a special assessment. This assessment would be the same for all property owners and would be separate from the property tax revenue. This approach would allow property tax rates to be lowered from the current 35 cents to about 23 cents per $100 to generate the same revenue. This approach clearly has its pros and cons. A pro is that the true cost of government is not obscured by the MIC debt.
Citizens would be asked to accept this MIC penalty as an assessment born equally by all. How much would this assessment cost a property owner based on a $2 million MIC annual debt? It would be about $500. That is about the average amount that property owners are paying in taxes for MI Connection.
The lowered tax rate would soften the impact of this assessment. The revised tax rate could be fairly compared to our neighboring towns and probably raised from 23 cents to a value of say … 28 cents which would allow Davidson to get back on track with needed government services and reserves.
The MIC debt is a heavy burden on our town and even heavier on our citizens living on a fixed income. To protect the “aging in place” concept, I propose that the MIC assessment be waived on property owners meeting certain criteria. This would result in lower property taxes for these aging citizens and help them avoid the “property tax squeeze.” The MIC assessment would be adjusted for others to accommodate these aging citizens.
The main downside to this is that the MIC debt would be evenly distributed across all properties except for those elderly that qualify for a waiver. Some will view this as fair – others might view it as the “rich not paying their share.” The best solution for this problem is to free ourselves of the debt. That is unlikely without an independent MIC Task force or equivalent effort. That would be fair solution for all!