Despite objections from citizen members of the Budget Committee and the public, the City Council continues to reach into residents’ pockets to pay for new services. That won’t make Ashland more affordable for anyone or more attractive to newcomers.
Last week the council voted to increase the public safety support fee on electrical meters from 50 cents to $1.50 per month, along with a 1 percent increase in the hotel-motel tax, which is paid by visitors. The first 50 cents of the meter fee was implemented last year to fund the second of four new police officers. The first officer was paid for with a property tax increase of 4.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
The latest increases will provide permanent funding for the two remaining officer positions.
The council set itself up for this when councilors committed to adding the officers without a way to pay for them. We supported adding to the police force, but cobbling together taxes and fees on city residents without cutting spending anywhere else in the budget is not the best way to accomplish that.
The hotel-motel tax increase can be justified on the grounds that the annual influx of tourists is a primary reason more officers are needed. But making it more expensive to visit Ashland has a downside, too.
Councilors Rich Rosenthal and Michael Morris called the fee increase a “short-term solution.” If that’s true, the council will find other ways to cover the cost and remove the meter fee.