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If you're a Bossier City property owner or renter, happy New Year: anybody who read this space was warned. And, as a consequence of their past blundering, Bossier City lawmakers last year made it official: they’re raising taxes on the citizenry this year to make it pay for their mistakes.
In 2010, elected officials moaned and complained about how refusal to renew what was listed on the books as a 6 mill property tax would imperil funding of public safety services. That was their immature way of threatening voters to keep the gravy train rolling, instead of making sensible decisions they long resisted such as selling unneeded and underperforming real estate like the CenturyLink Center and Cyber Innovation Center. Even at a loss, the combination of curtailing the money these lost each year would more than have filled any budgetary gap by removal of the tax.
Voting down the renewal might have been the device to get it through those small brains with the giant egos that sit on the Bossier City Council and in the mayor’s office that they could no longer retain their venture capitalist attitude with the people’s money.
But, more disturbingly, when they put up the renewal, they did so at the full 6 mills, not the 4.86 being levied as a result of trepidation at rolling rates forward as a result increased valuations. This signaled they would use an affirmative vote as political permission to roll rates forward in the future.
And thus, when enough scared, gullible, and lackadaisically-informed people went along with the city’s desire for the renewal, it set the stage for this year’s 1.14 mill increase. The inevitability of hiking taxes for Bossier City residents emanated from past spending errors that now increasingly stress the city’s finances. A review of recent developments concerning these shows why:
Cyber Innovation Center. ($35 million) The least costly of these mistakes, because Bossier Parish and state taxpayers subsidized two-thirds of the building of this high-tech office building, what part of it actually leased mainly is with federal government clients that came here because of the Barksdale Air Force Base presence – which begs the question of why Bossier City should act as landlord and lose money in the process instead of selling to the federal government. And now the mandarins in charge are throwing good money after bad by using taxpayer dollars to investigate an expansion of the money-losing enterprise.
CenturyLink Center. ($56.5 million) The new name not only does not change the old problems here, but occurred simultaneously with the low point of its existence. Not only did the Arena Football 2 Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings fold up and head out of town last year, but they were followed by the original anchor tenant, the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs of the Central Hockey League, disbanded. Now with no tenants entailing the loss of roughly 50 dates annually (a few of these can be made up with other users, but not as many and likely bringing smaller revenues each), what have been relatively small operating losses on an average annual basis look to widen into much bigger gaps on the order of the size of the interest expense to pay off the debt still outstanding on it. (But at least it’s a great place with its substantial and now more than ever sparsely used parking lots for use in training public safety officers on how to drive skillfully.)
Louisiana Boardwalk garage. ($21 million) The foreclosed outdoor retail mall staggers on, with its sagging sales and occupancy trickling fewer dollars to tax coffers, meaning, contrary to the sunshine being blown up the public’s skirts in desperate city public relations moves, it will be decades, if ever, that the city recoups the money it shelled out to build the garage. (Funny how the city did not publicize a largely negative Wall Street Journal article about the complex that came out about the time of its lame reassurances.) At least the other white elephants can be sold at a loss; the garage is useless without the mall so if the enterprise ever goes belly-up and completely closes, this becomes an absolute liability to the city.
At least the blind mice that run the city have found the harsh light of reality too penetrating to ignore. Last year, it announced the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year that is spent on supplementing the Boardwalk’s security with Bossier City patrol officers on premises would be yanked in order to save money. Whether that will bring more unease to the public about shopping there remains to be seen.
Of course, we have to recognize that these elected officials have about the same attention span to real issues as a dog spotting a squirrel does when it comes to their big-government-knows-best philosophy of government corralling the next big thing to trigger economic development. Around 15 years ago we heard about how the arena would trigger a boom in development around it; instead, all it’s spawned is litigation. Then it was growth by selling more stuff via the Boardwalk, which largely served to beggar local business. Then the CIC was supposed to attract 10,000 private sector jobs in cybersecurity; let me know if the total ever hits triple digits.
Last year, city leaders banked on an entertainment complex that has gone nowhere. Most recently, there’s the hope that establishing the city’s fourth casino, set to open in about a year, actually might not drive one of its other three out of business. Nothing changes when you put in office economic illiterates who care more about looking like big fishes in a small pond, attracted to baubles like monkeys to shiny objects, than in serving the people through wise stewardship of their tax dollars. So they come back for more bucks as a result.
But when you do feel the hand of Bossier City government reaching into and grabbing more from your pocket, just consider that we did it to ourselves. Only one person ran against any of the present incompetents elected to the City Council last time, and the equally policy-defective Mayor Lo Walker drew only a single, undistinguished opponent. Every member of the Council has been there for at least two of these three bad decisions. As a result of too much apathy, Bossier Citians are getting the bad government that they deserve.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 08:10