Raising taxes in a time of economic stagnation sends the wrong message.
City council members in Champaign didn't exactly say, "You've got it, and we want it," when they voted Tuesday to raise the sales tax to nine cents per $1 as well as hike sanitary sewer fees. But their actions spoke volumes, and that was the message.
City council members are tiring of not having as much money as they would like to spend. They're tired of talking about cutting budgets, laying off employees and making tough choices about budget priorities.
After five years of a brutal recession and a slow recovery, isn't everyone? Unfortunately, taxpayers can't make money appear by casting a vote. They have to earn it before the city can tax it. But the city can levy higher taxes whether people or businesses can afford it or not.
The two taxes approved by council members this week aren't so disappointing for how much they will cost the public. They are disappointing because of the council members' indifference to a public that has been buffeted by the howling winds of a tough economy.
Council members voted 8-1 to raise the sales tax by a quarter cent starting on Jan. 1. The tax is expected to generate an additional $1.1 million more than the $1.7 million needed to spare the library a reduction in hours, fill vacant police officer positions and pay firefighters overtime to maintain a service the city just a year ago planned to end.
Judging from his enthusiasm about the additional $1.1 million, Mayor Don Gerard can't wait to spend that either — "investments" he called the anticipated outlays over as-yet unnamed projects.
These two tax increases follow a gasoline tax hike, the initiation of a storm water utility tax and a sanitary sewer tax. It all adds up when we all start to pay up — and it points to a languid indifference on the part of the mayor and council members.