The Rockford Files

Small Is Beautiful

The City of Rockford is broke.  That does not mean, of course, that it is insolvent or bankrupt; after all, it is rather hard for any government with the power to tax to end up in that position (though some occasionally do).  Like so many other cities of its size today, however, Rockford has projected expenses for the coming fiscal year that far outstrip expected revenues from taxes and other sources—in other words, what any father, looking at his household budget, would define as broke.

The power to tax, however, provides the city with a different set of options from those available to the father.  In this current economic slump, the head of a household does not have many ways of increasing its revenue; he may be lucky simply to keep his job.  By necessity, he either has to cut expenses (the prudent, though possibly painful, course) or to borrow to make ends meet, pushing those expenses further into the future to a time when, he hopes, he will have a little more cash in his pocket.  The city, however, can generate more revenue through a simple majority vote and, thus, avoid the issue entirely.  And that, unfortunately, is what Rockford’s aldermen have chosen to do.

On Monday, February 3, the council voted to increase the telephone tax by 500 percent (from one percent to six percent), to tack a five-percent tax onto the city’s water service, and to increase garbage-collection...

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