How does the levy limit impact your community's services? Levy limits were, from my understanding, originally created to control the mill rates for local governing bodies thereby providing an "aid" to residents in lower taxes and an "attractant" to business. While the concept in it's simplest form makes sense the overall result does not. What a levy limit does is cripple communities by not allowing them to budget for infrastructure such as roads, fire/police vehicles or facilities, public works equipment or even improvements or repairs to existing facilities. We are running our Public Works Department with pieces of equipment from the 1990's that need to be replaced but because they are larger pieces of equipment and can cost thousands of dollars to purchase we cannot afford them. Squads are being run sometimes one to two years past their useful life creating safety issues not only for our officers but for our residents as well. And on top of that thousands is being spent each year in just trying to maintain our pieces of equipment. Road work is almost none existent.
How does the levy limit impact your community's budgeting practices and finances, eg, your amount of borrowing? In a real world we should be pro-active setting aside funds each year so that the larger purchases or projects can be funded or at least partially funded eliminating the burden of debt. But with levy limits I cannot set aside dollars for a new squad, replace the Senior's Center roof or start replacing the public works equipment from the 1990's. We scrimp and save every penny. The budget process is painful in that every year we have to say we can't afford to do something or maintain something - then another year goes by and we are still trying to maintain the core services at our minimum levels. Our debt continues to grow and it's concerning to me as a Finance Director to know that we're putting our community in this type of a situation.
How does the levy limit impact your community's staffing levels and employee compensation? Pay for staff - may I use an emoji here :( - our staffing levels are at a minimum ALWAYS. Compensation is as one employee put it to me (who has now left to work in the private sector) "insults to our talents and knowledge". We are seeing a turn over of employees and in trying to hire replacements we're finding we can't compete with the private sector. Our hourly and even salary ranges are woefully below the norm which makes attracting employees extremely difficult. I can speak from first hand knowledge - we just advertised for the Deputy Treasurer's job - had received just over 20 applications. In the process we narrowed it to the top ten who I did phone interviews with to ask some follow up questions - compensation did come up in our discussions - I explained what the hourly rate of pay was and answered their questions on benefits 9 out of the 10 declined to interview based on our hourly rate and benefit package. If that doesn't paint the picture I don't know what will.
Anything else you'd like to say regarding the impact of levy limits on your community? There has to be some reality in how levy limits are calculated. Reality in not just looking at growth factors in a community but looking at the costs of core items - health insurance being one that comes to mind. We have a $45,000 growth in the levy limit but our premiums for health insurance increased by almost $80,000 - we're already behind before we even start trying to budget. I am also an elected official for the Township in which I live - our levy limit increase last year was just under $2,000 - what in the world can we do with that type of an increase.