One of the highest and entirely legitimate expectations citizens have of their local governments is transparency. Openness. Honesty.
On its website the City of Franklin writes that it is reviewing funding options for emergency response, fire and police services. A survey was sent, according to the city, to all residents asking how to pay for those services (Many Franklin residents informed me they never received the survey in the mail).
Here are excerpts from the city’s website with my comments that follow in red. The city is disingenuous and misleading in their account:
The survey results were presented to the Common Council on Tuesday, August 7th. The complete presentation is available below.
Highlights from the presentation include:
- 3,296 residents responded to the survey. What the city neglects to write is that more than 14,000 households were sent surveys. The response rate was a mere 23%.
- 72% of respondents indicated that it is extremely important that the City of Franklin provides high-quality and responsive emergency services. This is an extremely biased question. Of course a majority responded that way. Who wants poor emergency services? Quite frankly I’m stunned the percentage wasn’t higher.
- Nearly two-thirds of respondents encouraged the City to explore funding options to increase fire/EMS and police staffing levels. But not all suggested tax increases.
- The option receiving the most support to address the public safety challenges, was a referendum to increase local property taxes so that the City can hire nine firefighter/EMS positions and three police officers. Why doesn’t the city just tell the truth and give the exact figures? The options to increase the number of firefighters by nine: On maintaining the status quo on funding, 36% said YES, 49% said NO, and 15% were undecided. On cutting other services to fund the additional firefighters, 49% said NO, 36% said YES, and 15% were undecided. On increasing taxes to fund the additional firefighters, 46% said YES, 42% said NO, and 12% were undecided. The options to increase the number of police officers by three:
63% said explore options to increase, 25% said maintain the status quo, 6% were undecided, and 5% filled in the blank with other ideas. On cutting other services to fund the additional police, 54% said NO, 31% said YES, and 15% were undecided.On increasing taxes to fund the additional police, 49% said YES, 41% said NO, and 10% were undecided. So…on the critical questions to increase taxes, NONE got 50%.
- Most respondents opposed the City making other budget cuts and service reductions in order to maintain or increase staffing levels. Again see my response to the previous bullet point. By accounts from aldermen themselves the responses were close to an even split. You’d never know from the spin on the city website.
The Common Council will now evaluate the community’s feedback and decide whether to proceed with a referendum vote this fall as part of the 2019 budget process. If a referendum is scheduled, the question would be on the November 6, 2018 ballot. There may not be a referendum this year. That’s because, in part, of the split results.