Dear Red Bank Mayor, Vice Mayor and Commissioners:
We write in general support of the Red Bank city manager’s proposed budget for the 2023/2024 fiscal year.
We appreciate the methodical process – annual planning, prioritizing, and budgeting accordingly – the city is now implementing, beginning each year with the Commission’s strategic planning retreat. Setting near-term priorities, and developing an annual budget in pursuit of those priorities is a sound, defensible and transparent process.
Two key details we admittedly do not fully understand and are not wedded to:
We do not know if a $0.59-cent increase is the precise magic number for a needed property tax increase to support the city manager’s proposed budget this fiscal year, though we have confidence in the demonstrated competence of Finance Director John Alexander, and in his fiscal leadership, to keep Red Bank on solid financial ground.
We do not know whether such property tax increase is necessary in one step, or if it could be phased in over two or three years, with some tweaking of budget details.
One overriding reality we do know: we get what we pay for. The city of Red Bank has maintained a longstanding goal of rock-bottom property taxes, resulting in long-term underinvestment and deferment in maintaining basic city services, infrastructure, and quality personnel. My father always told me, usually regarding maintenance costs for a car or house: “Pay a little now, or pay a lot later.” Red Bank currently finds itself cornered, in having to pay a lot now to make up for the negligence of the past. Continually kicking the fiscal can down the road is no heroic act of fiscal conservatism; rather, it is an irresponsible abdication of leadership.
If our primary life goal was minimal property taxes with bare minimum government services, we would live in an unincorporated rural area. Instead, we choose to live in the city of Red Bank, where we expect and recognize the overdue need for upgraded infrastructure, community services, and cultural opportunities. We also do not want to live in a “bare minimum” town that is subsisting on survival rations, and thus has a paucity of parks, recreation, culture, and vibrancy. We want our town to strive to become the best community we can envision.
Nobody likes paying more taxes. We both are retired, and live on a fixed income as homeowners in Red Bank. Yet we recognize the responsible path ahead for a better Red Bank, and support the budget necessary for thoughtful, strategic improvement of city services and infrastructure, and of community life.
Thank you all for your service and sacrifices to make our town the best it can be.
Don McKenzie and Jane West