It had to happen sooner or later in Berlin — a significant tax increase that is, as years of municipal reinvestment in the community to aid its economic resurgence had to be repaid at some point.
The costs of maintaining and delivering services, after all, are tied to a town’s desirability and attractiveness, both of which have risen to new heights in Berlin over the last decade.
In addition, as was pointed out in last week’s meeting of the mayor and council, the town drew on its rainy-day funds to cover losses suffered by its wastewater utility, whose rates were kept artificially low to help promote growth and development.
Compounding the problem for local government and taxpayers is that most of Berlin’s improvements have occurred within its fairly static municipal boundaries. The town hasn’t grown that much physically, since public approval of annexations is difficult to obtain, and that prevents these rising expenses from being spread throughout an expanding tax base.
It’s a simple problem with no easy solution. Expenses always go up and there are only two ways to cover the increases: raise taxes periodically, as the council proposes to do, or keep the tax rate down by expanding the assessable base through growth.
As was said in this space four years ago, it’s true that a community can lose some of its charm and flavor through physical growth, but it’s also impossible to maintain a set level of livability at a similarly fixed level of expense.
That’s where Berlin is now, at the intersection of rising costs and community charm and livability. It’s a tough spot, and, for the moment, a tax increase is the only answer.