Saturday, March 26, 2011
Commentary: City of Grapevine’s half-cent sales tax for crime control — is it paying off?
The four-year-old tax measure comes up for renewal in a vote on May 14.
Four years and more than $40 million ago, the City of Grapevine asked Grapevine residents to pass a half-cent sales tax that would go toward funding the Police department within the city and several police service improvements that we do not really care to get into here. The real question is not where the 40 million or so dollars went (it went to the police department), it is what did the city do before the Crime Control and Prevention fund?
Let’s assume for a second that Grapevine had a police force prior to 2007 (it did). How was the police department funded back then? Is it safe to assume it was funded out of another fund within the City of Grapevine’s operations? Probably.
So if the city was funding the police department out of one big pie prior to 2007, but added an additional slice of pie (about 10 million dollars per year in the form of the Crime Control and Prevention Fund) to fund the police department. Then where did the funding go in the larger pie that prior to 2007 funded the police department?
While we are assuming here, let’s assume the funds in the bigger pie did not disappear. They were just unlocked to fund other projects. So then the next question becomes what projects were created with the bigger pie that used to pay for the police department?
We don’t really have any of these answers. We are only raising the questions before the upcoming vote on May 14th of whether or not to renew the half-cent sales tax in the City of Grapevine that goes toward funding the police department.
We do find it interesting that the original request back in 2007 was for just 4 years. This time the City Council is requesting that the sales tax continue for 15 more years. Why not just make it permanent? Fifteen years is a long time. What is the difference really between 15 years and eternity to most voters?
Here are some things we have noticed around the city in the last four years. We have noticed a lot of great new shuttle buses running around the city that lose money for the city each year. We also notice the construction of a great new multi-million dollar Convention and Visitors Bureau building on Main Street.
Anyone driven by the 33-year-old police station lately? So as the City Council asks for another 15 years of this Crime Control and Prevention fund and another roughly 150 million dollars of your money over that time period, you might ask if that money includes funding for a new police station. If you did ask, the answer to that question would be – “No it doesn’t.”
After you approve this 150 million sales tax, the Council will likely come back to you in the next couple of years asking you to fund a new police station separately.
Oh by the way, back in 2006 the City of Grapevine also asked you to approve a separate half-cent sales tax related to a commuter train called the “T” that would connect Grapevine residents to DFW airport and to downtown Fort Worth. Anyone taken the “T” train to DFW lately?* Please note that the sales tax you approved for the ”T” train now actually helps fund those shuttle buses running around the city at a loss that we mentioned earlier.
So when you sit back and think about whether or not you should vote “yes” or “no” to the half-cent sales tax renewal on the Crime Control and Prevention fund, maybe you will think about what you are really voting for. Fifteen years is a long time. 150 million dollars is a lot of money.
A ”no” vote would only send this proposal back to the City Council who will then likely turn around and place it on the November ballot most likely at a lower and slightly more palatable number of years.
Just some things to think about on your way to the ballot box on May 14th, 2011.
*Service of the “T” is expected to begin in 2013 according to 2010 Economic Update provided by the City of Grapevine. Note: We are not holding our breath.
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