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EDITORIAL: Mayor right to veto CPI tax increase

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The Rapid City Council will take up the city budget again tonight, which may include an attempt to override Mayor Sam Kooiker's veto of a $402,000 cost-of-living property tax increase.

Kooiker opposed the tax increase because he says the city doesn't need the money. His proposed $136.7 million budget for the city does not include the additional funding.

Kooiker said the budget is balanced without the money, and he points to other revenue sources that make the CPI increase unnecessary. They include eight expiring tax increment financing districts, an increase in property tax revenue due to growth – about $624,000 – and strong sales tax revenues that are currently exceeding budgeted amounts.

"When you look at what our citizens are facing, many haven't received a pay raise at work, haven't received an increase in their Social Security. They haven't received the CPI. Why should we take a consumer price index increase?" Kooiker said when he vetoed the tax increase.

Kooiker told the Journal editorial board that government shouldn't take in revenues that it doesn't need. The extra revenue tempts government officials to find something to spend the money on, he said.

"How dare we raise property taxes when other revenues are doing so well?" Kooiker said.

The CPI increase passed with six votes of the council, but seven votes are needed to override the veto.

The clash between the mayor and council over the property tax increase mirrors the earlier clash over Kooiker's proposed reduction in garbage fees. Kooiker called for an 8 percent reduction in garbage collection fees because the collections fund had a $2.26 million balance as of June.

The council's Public Works Committee agreed last week to reduce the garbage fee.

We agree with Mayor Kooiker that the city should not increase taxes and fees if the revenue isn't needed and should reduce taxes and fees whenever possible. Government should only take in the revenue that is necessary to deliver the services that citizens need or demand.

At tonight's meeting, the city council should adopt the garbage fee reduction and drop any attempt at overriding the property tax increase.

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